A mammogram is an imaging examination of the breast performed to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, often before any signs or symptoms of the disease are present. This exam is recommended annually for women over the age of 40, who are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. In addition to age, patients who have a personal or family history of breast cancer, abnormal breast changes or long-term use of hormone therapy may also be at an increased risk of developing breast cancer and should be screened on a regular basis.
Mammograms may be performed for screening or diagnostic purposes. Screenings involve producing images of both breasts in order to detect any tumors that cannot yet be felt under the skin. They can also detect calcium deposits that may indicate breast cancer. Diagnostic mammograms are performed after a lump or other sign of breast cancer has been detected, or after abnormalities were present during a screening mammogram. This procedure targets a specific area of the breast and takes more detailed images from many different angles.
We perform digital mammography services that offer patients faster and more accurate results than the traditional X-ray exam. Our lab is fully equipped with the latest technology available that allows us to provide patients with the most precise mammogram results.
The digital mammogram shares the same basic principles as the traditional X-ray method, as X-ray technology is still used to produce the image of the breast. However, instead of capturing the image to film, digital mammography captures the image directly to the doctor’s computer for fast, easy viewing. The X-ray waves are converted into electrical signals, similar to the technology used in a digital camera. Compression of the breast is still needed to produce an accurate image. Digital mammograms are approved by the FDA and offer results comparable if not better than the conventional exam.
Benefits of Digital Mammography
With a digital mammogram, the image can be viewed and sent to our radiologist right away. They can also be sent instantly to other doctors regardless of their location. If the image is unclear, or if additional images are needed, they can be taken at the same time as the initial visit to avoid inconveniencing the patient and to minimize any potential anxieties about a second visit.
In addition to its convenience, digital mammography is also more accurate than film mammograms, especially in detecting cancer in women under the age of 50 or in women with dense breasts. There is less radiation used than film mammograms, therefore reducing the patient’s lifetime exposure to radiation.
During a mammogram, the breast is placed on a small platform and compressed with a paddle while it is exposed to a very low dose of radiation. Compression helps even out the thickness of the breast so that all breast tissue can be visualized and also holds the breast still to minimize blurring of the image caused by patient movement. Images of the breast tissue are produced and then displayed on a computer screen for your doctor to view.
There is no special preparation needed for the mammogram procedure. Patients should not schedule a mammogram the week before they have their period, as the breasts are usually tender at this time. During the procedure, you may experience pressure on the breast from the compression, which may be uncomfortable if you have sensitive breasts. Most patients tolerate the mammogram procedure with no problems.
A mammogram is considered to be a safe procedure for most women, including those with breast implants. It is important to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or have any pre-existing medical conditions.