Overview of Mammography
Mammography is a screening test used to detect breast cancer. During a mammogram, low-dose X-rays are used to take pictures of the breast tissue. The radiologist then evaluates the images to look for any changes in the breast tissue. These changes may be an indication of breast cancer.
This section will provide an overview of what happens during a mammogram:
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast tissues that can diagnose early signs of breast cancer or other abnormalities in the breasts. Mammograms can detect changes in breast tissue before they can be seen or felt and are recommended once a year for early detection and screening of potential problems.
When having a mammogram, women should wear comfortable clothing without buttons or zippers, abstain from wearing any lotions, deodorants, powders, and/or perfumes on their chest area before arriving for the exam. The exam begins with an explanation as well as instructions from the radiologist on how to position each breast onto the X-ray plate securely. The trapped compression used during this mammogram helps flatten out any differences between dense and fatty tissues for a clearer image. It also enables the radiologist to capture multiple images with different degrees of viewing angles for comparison.
The entire procedure usually takes between 15 to 30 minutes depending on age, density of breast tissue and other factors determined by your Radiologist. During/after your mammogram you may experience some tenderness and discomfort due to the compression but should subside within a few hours after completing the exam.
Who should get a mammogram?
Mammograms are recommended for women over the age of 40 to check for breast cancer, but it is important to speak with your doctor to decide when screening should begin for you. Risk factors such as family history, current breast density, regular lifestyle habits and a physician’s personal preference can play a part in detecting and preventing breast cancer.
It is important to note that the American College of Radiology and U.S Preventive Services Task Force recommend that women with an average risk for breast cancer start getting yearly mammograms at age 45 and transition to every other year at age 55*. Yearly mammograms between 40-44 are an option depending on personal preferences after consulting with a physician.
Additionally, if you have certain risk factors or genetic mutations such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, your healthcare provider may recommend that you begin mammography earlier than the standard starting age. In any case, if abnormalities are detected during regular screenings or if you have any family history of breast cancer or new symptoms it is advised that you get additional screenings done right away.
It’s also worth mentioning that men can also develop breast cancer although this is very rare; men over the age of 40 should talk to their healthcare professional about whether they should begin regular mammograms.
What are the benefits of a mammogram?
A mammogram is a specialized type of X-ray imaging used to detect abnormalities in your breast tissue that cannot be felt by a physical examination alone. Mammograms are one of the most effective methods for early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. While mammograms can help in earlier detection and diagnosis, it’s important to understand that there is no one single test that can guarantee you won’t develop breast cancer, as every case is unique.
The benefits of a mammogram include:
- Early Detection: A mammogram can detect abnormal growths or tumors before you or your doctor are able to feel them during a physical breast examination.
- Accuracy: Screening device technology has become very accurate in detecting potential abnormalities, with false positives occurring in fewer than 5% of exams.
- Speed: Mammography has the potential to save lives by detecting cancer at an early stage when treatment may be more successful.
- Cost Effective: Compared with other medical imaging tests, a mammogram is much less expensive and requires less time than some other technologies used for diagnosis or screening.
In addition to these benefits, it’s important to remember that it is always best to have regular checkups with your doctor. This will allow them to make recommendations based on your individual health profile and provide advice about any additional tests or treatments necessary for optimal health and prevention care.
Preparing for a Mammogram
Preparing for a mammogram is an important step that you should take to ensure that you receive the best results possible. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the specifics of the exam and to follow their instructions. Knowing what to expect before, during, and after the exam can help make the process easier, from choosing an appropriate gown to preparing for any additional tests that may be needed.
- Talk to your doctor about the specifics of the exam.
- Choose an appropriate gown.
- Prepare for any additional tests that may be needed.
What should you wear?
It’s important to wear comfortable clothing when having your mammogram as well as bringing a separate set of comfortable clothing to change into afterwards. You should avoid wearing clothing with any metal fastenings or accessories such as buttons, zippers, or jewelry, as these items can interfere with the imaging process and may need to be removed during the procedure.
For additional comfort, it is recommended that you opt for a two-piece outfit on the day of your exam. Wearing a top and bottom will make it easier for you to undress from the waist up if needed before the breasts are examined. It is also helpful to wear loose-fitting clothing that can be folded away from the breast area easily. If you must wear a dress, it is best to pair it with an appropriate undershirt that can be pulled aside for imaging purposes.
During this time of COVID-19 social distancing measures, many hospitals have requested that patients attending breast cancer screenings bring their own loose button-down shirt or gown in which they can be examined rather than using hospital supplied gowns and robes due contactless measures surrounding coronavirus prevention guidelines.
Overall, being properly dressed prior to arriving at your appointment enables faster screening and results in more comfort during the arrangement of positioning before and throughout your mammogram procedure.
What should you expect?
A mammogram is an important medical test that assists in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. During the mammogram procedure, your breasts will be compressed between two plates while images or x-rays are taken. The compression helps to spread out your breast tissue, thus allowing any abnormalities to show clearly on the resulting images.
It is important to remember that while the experience may not be comfortable, it should not cause you unnecessary pain or discomfort. Before the mammogram procedure begins, you can expect your health care provider to explain what will happen and answer any questions you may have. Your clinician will then position each breast between two plastic plates and make an image. They will use a special type of film cassettes appropriate for smaller breasts or denser tissues, if necessary.
During this time, you may feel very slight pressure on your breasts; however, this sensation should only last for a few seconds as each image is taken from several different angles. Generally speaking, most women find the entire process takes about 20 minutes – 10 minutes per side – with some women reporting feeling only slight discomforts during their mammograms that disappear fairly quickly once finished with their tests. Afterward, your radiologist will analyze the results and let your physician know if further tests are necessary in order to make an accurate diagnosis of any abnormalities detected during the exam.
How should you prepare?
Mammograms are an essential tool for early detection of breast cancer and other conditions. To ensure you get the most accurate results from your mammogram, it’s important to take the necessary steps to prepare for the visit.
- Three days before your appointment, do not take any pain relievers containing ibuprofen or naproxen. These medications can temporarily increase density in your breasts and make it harder for radiologists to interpret the images.
- Additionally, avoid lotions, oils or powders in your underarms or on your breasts on the day of the exam as these may show up as fog on the X-rays and obscure areas which require closer examination.
- Lastly, be sure to make an appointment with at least 48 hours between collections so that if a technical problem arises with the X-ray images or if additional images are needed, there is time on either side of that appointment to accommodate a re-take if needed.
When you book a mammogram, let them know if there have been any recent changes in your breasts including new lumps or pain. Your doctor might advise you to wait until after your period when breast tissue is less dense before having a mammogram if certain conditions apply as mammograms work best when there is no extra tissue confusing matters.
It’s important to remain relaxed before and during the exam for best results so take some deep breaths and try not to tense up as much as possible throughout each phase of the procedure. Afterward, you may experience slight discomfort due to tissue compression but this should fade quickly upon leaving the clinic.
The Mammogram Procedure
A mammogram is an imaging test used to evaluate breast health. During the mammogram procedure, X-rays are used to produce images of the breast tissue that can help reveal any potential changes in size or shape. The mammogram can be used to detect or diagnose breast cancer or other abnormalities.
Let’s take a closer look at the mammogram procedure:
How is a mammogram performed?
Mammograms are a low-dose X-ray imaging technique used to detect any changes or abnormalities in breast tissue. Mammogram procedures use specialized equipment that takes multiple X-ray images of each breast, from several angles and depths.
During a single mammogram session, four different views of each breast are taken and all images are stored digitally for easy comparison, evaluation and follow up if necessary.
Mammograms require the patient to stand or sit during the procedure; the position best suited for proper imaging will be determined by the technician performing the mammogram. The technician will then place each breast between two firm plates designed to flatten it out and spread out the tissue evenly so that it can be viewed by the X-ray machine. This process is usually slightly uncomfortable but rarely painful.
The X-rays are taken within fifteen minutes, after which you’ll be asked to wait while the X-rays are examined by a radiologist (an expert in using medical imaging techniques such as mammograms). After examination, you may be recalled to discuss further tests or treatments that may be required if any suspicious areas have been identified on your mammogram images. In most cases, however, no further action will be necessary unless told otherwise by your doctor or specialist.
What should you expect during the procedure?
When you visit the doctor for a mammogram, it is important to know the basics of what goes on during the procedure. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray that can reveal changes in breast tissue that are too small to detect during a physical exam. It is also used to diagnose and monitor treatments for breast cancer.
Before the procedure begins, you will be asked to undress from the waist up and put on one of the clinic’s gowns. The technician or radiologist will then position your breast between two plates inside an x-ray machine with their hands or specialized tools. To get clear images of your breast tissue, they will apply mild pressure while pressing down firmly on each plate.
The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes and you may feel some discomfort during compression. But this should only last for a few seconds and should not be too uncomfortable if done properly. It is also important to note that this discomfort does not cause any permanent damage; it only serves to flatten out your breasts for clear images of always structures such as tumors or lumps which can’t be seen by eye. Afterward, you will be given copies of your results and might need to schedule further tests or monitoring depending on what was found in the initial examination.
How long does the procedure take?
A mammogram typically takes about 15 to 20 minutes from start to finish. This includes registration, changing into a gown, having the mammogram, and leaving. While it can take less than 15 minutes for some patient’s procedure to be completed, most women should plan for the entire visit to last 20 minutes or longer.
During that time, you will change into a hospital gown and a technician will help you get comfortable on the machine. The technician will then perform the screening. While mammograms may vary slightly from center to center, they are usually done in two stages:
- The technician gently presses an X-ray plate against one breast while your other arm is raised above your head. This ensures that all areas of the breast are exposed to the X-ray beam.
- The X-ray plate is moved around while pressure is applied directly onto each area of your breast. Depending on how large and dense your breasts are, this could take a few minutes per breast or slightly longer if both breasts need multiple exposures from different angles.
If needed, additional views of certain areas or images called magnifications may also be taken during this time in order to better look at specific areas that may have been identified as abnormal during the first view (magnifications). This process can increase the total time by several more minutes per breast and is often necessary for smaller or denser breasts.
Once all images have been taken, you will be given your results just before leaving for followup if needed with your doctor whether via phone call or mail or in person appointment depending on what was agreed upon priorly with respective doctor/clinic.
After the Mammogram
After your mammogram, the results will be reviewed by a radiologist or a specialized doctor who interprets medical images. The doctor will review each image taken and check for any abnormalities or signs of cancer. If a suspicious area is found, you may be asked to come back for a follow-up mammogram or some other diagnostic test.
Understanding what happens after a mammogram is important for the detection and prevention of breast cancer.
How will you receive the results?
Once the mammogram is complete, results will be sent to a radiologist for review. Results of the mammogram are typically sent to your doctor or other healthcare provider within a few days and they will contact you if there is any abnormal finding. If you have elected to receive the results directly from the radiology office, they will then send you an intial letter with any preliminary findings as soon as possible. After further analysis of your exam by a radiologist, you may receive an additional letter with either normal results or concerning findings that require further investigation.
Before receiving the initial results of your mammogram, it is important to prepare questions for your doctor or imaging specialist so that they can answer any questions you may have regarding the exam and its results. Questions can range from general procedures during and after a mammogram to specific examination points or even future tests that may need to be conducted if further investigation is needed.
What happens if the results are abnormal?
If your mammogram reveals large areas that look different from the rest of your breast tissue, it will be followed up with further imaging and possibly a biopsy. If cancer is found, other tests may be needed to see if the cancer has spread beyond the breast.
Depending on what imaging and other tests are used, these follow-up appointments may take place at the same time or several weeks after your initial mammogram appointment. A radiologist and/or an oncologist will interpret any additional test results and create an individualized plan to help manage your diagnosis.
Non-cancerous findings may warrant follow up imaging or ultrasound to further assess a certain area or lesion in the breast. Your doctor may also suggest lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and making sure you get enough exercise to reduce future risk of cancer. These lifestyle changes can help you stay healthy while exploring other available treatments as well as monitoring any new developments on your mammograms in the future.
What are the risks of a mammogram?
Mammograms are generally very safe, but there are still some potential risks associated with this imaging test. You may be exposed to an increased level of radiation exposure during the X-ray exam. For most people, the amount of radiation used is quite low and is not believed to increase the risk of cancer. However, if you have had several mammograms over a long period of time or already have cancer, more care must be taken as there are potentially higher levels of risk.
You may experience some discomfort during the procedure as your breast is lightly compressed in order to spread out tissue and get a clearer image. This type of pressure can be uncomfortable for some women, but it won’t cause any physical harm. There can also be some bruising present after the mammogram due to the pressure applied during the examination.
In general, it is important to keep in mind that mammograms are generally very safe and they are a critical tool in our fight against breast cancer. However, it is important to discuss any questions or concerns with your healthcare provider before you have a mammogram so that you understand any potential risks associated with this procedure.