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 non-invasive 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 ionising radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Source: RadiologyInfo

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Facts about Breast Cancer

  • Although most women are diagnosed between the ages of 45 and 70 years, it also occurs in women younger than 45 years.
  • The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis 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 50 years, but also found in younger women.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to be affected 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 years) and late menopause (after 50 years).
  • Children: No children or having your first child after the age of 30 years.
  • HRT: Taking hormone replacement therapy for more than 5 years.
  • Lifestyle: Smoking, alcohol, obesity, and a high-fat diet are all harmful and can lead to cancer.

Value of Screening Mammography

  • Early Detection: A mammogram can detect a mass up to 2 years before detection by touch.
  • Enables more successful treatment options: Lumpectomy (removal of a lump) instead of a mastectomy (removal of a 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 50-70 years.
  • 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 to your chest area.
  • Try not to schedule your mammogram for the week before or during your menstrual period, as breasts are usually more tender.
  • Any breast symptoms or problems must be discussed with the radiographer performing the examination.

The procedure

  • You will be required to remove clothing and jewellery 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, hold the breast still and reduce X-ray scatter, all of which improve image quality.
  • Additional 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 and reported by a radiologist while you wait. If any additional imaging is required, it can be done before leaving the department.
  • Your results will be sent to the referring doctor.
  • Phone your doctor to discuss the results if they have not contacted you in a timely manner.