Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts. A mammography exam, called a mammogram, is used to aid in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women.
An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Source: RadiologyInfo
Facts about Breast Cancer
- Although most women are diagnosed between ages 45-70yrs, it also occurs in women younger than 45yrs.
- The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis in terms of survival and quality of life.
- There is a 90%, 5 year survival rate when breast cancer is detected before it spreads.
- ALL breast masses should be investigated; 9 out of 10 lumps are not malignant.
Factors that could put you at risk for breast cancer
- Age: More likely in women over 50yrs, but also found in younger women.
- Gender: Women affected more likely than men.
- Family History: Having close relatives with breast cancer. If you had breast cancer in one breast you have an increased risk of getting breast cancer in the other breast.
- Menstrual History: Early onset of menstruation (before 12 yrs) and late menopause (after 50yrs).
- Children: No children or having your first child after the age of 30yrs.
- HRT: Taking hormone replacement therapy for more than 5yrs.
- Lifestyle: Smoking, alcohol, obesity and a high fat diet are all harmful and can lead to cancer.
Value of Screening Mammography
- Early Detection: Having a mammogram can detect a mass up to 2yrs before detection by touch.
- Enables more successful treatment options: Lumpectomy (removal of lump) instead of a mastectomy (removal of breast), so early detection can save your breast and more importantly, your life!
- Trials have shown a mortality reduction of up to 40-45% in ages 50-70yrs.
- Screening Mammogram: X-ray of a breast with no symptoms.
- Diagnostic Mammogram: X-ray of a breast where a known problem exists or the patient has symptoms.
Preparing for the procedure
- Do not apply powder, deodorants and creams on your chest area.
- Try not to schedule your mammogram for the week prior to or during your menstrual period as breasts are usually more tender.
- PLEASE INFORM THE RADIOGRAPHER IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR SUSPECT THAT YOU MAY BE PREGNANT!
- Any breast symptoms or problems must be discussed with the radiographer performing the examination.
- You will be required to remove clothing and jewelry from the waist up and put on a gown.
- X-ray images are taken of the breast, usually 2 per breast.
- The breast is compressed between two compression plates to flatten the breast to a more uniform thickness, spread the breast tissue apart, to hold the breast still and reduce x-ray scatter, all of which improve image quality.
- Further images and/or Ultrasound may be required depending on your breast tissue pattern and whether any irregularities appear on the initial four images.
- The examination usually takes 20-40min depending on the number of images done and if further examinations are required, e.g. Ultrasound.
- Images are viewed by a radiologist while you wait so that if any additional imaging is required it can be done before you leave the department.
- Your results will be sent to the referring doctor.
- Phone your doctor to discuss the results if he or she has not contacted you in a timely manner.