Diagnostic Imaging, Inc.

Services - Women's Imaging

Mammography

What is Mammography?

mammography
Image courtesy of Siemens Medical

Mammography, also known as a mammogram, is the examination of the breast using x-rays. Mammography is considered the most effective tool for early breast tumor detection. Most medical experts agree that successful treatment of breast cancer often is linked to early diagnosis. Mammography plays a central part in early detection of breast cancers because it can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them.

There are 2 types of mammograms. One is called a Screening Mammogram and is usually ordered by your doctor as a tool to detect early forms of breast cancer when you are not experiencing any breast symptoms. In most cases both breasts are examined for a screening mammogram. The other is called a Diagnostic Mammogram, and is ordered by your doctor when you are experiencing symptoms such as pain, a lump, nipple discharge, or change in the texture of your breast, if you have had breast cancer in the recent past, or if your screening mammogram has shown an abnormality or questionable finding. The differences between a screening and diagnostic mammogram is in the number of x-ray pictures and the angles at which the pictures are taken.

Mammograms can be performed using analog or digital mammography equipment. Analog mammograms use a conventional mammography unit and x-ray film. Digital mammography, also known as a full-field digital mammography, allows the radiologist to alter the orientation, magnification, brightness and contrast to produce images of the breast that can be seen on a computer screen. Digital mammography is state- of-the art imaging providing among other benefits, superb images, shorter appointment times and decreased radiation dose. Digital mammography is offered at many of DII’s locations.

Computer-Aided Detection or CAD

Some of the Mammography locations where DII provides its services are equipped with computer-aided detection (CAD) technology. CAD is a special device that assists the radiologist in his/her interpretation of the mammogram by using a digitized mammographic image to search for abnormal areas of density, mass, or calcification that may indicate the presence of cancer. The CAD system highlights these areas on the images, alerting the need for further analysis.

How often should I have a mammogram?

Current guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) recommend screening mammography every year for women, beginning at age 40.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that women who have had breast cancer and those who are at increased risk due to a genetic history of breast cancer should seek expert medical advice about whether they should begin screening before age 40 and about the frequency of screening. 

When should I schedule my mammogram?

Before scheduling a mammogram, you should discuss problems in your breasts with your doctor. In addition, inform your doctor of hormone use, any prior surgeries, and family or personal history of breast cancer. Generally, the best time is one week following your period. Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. Always inform your x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.

How should I prepare for a mammogram?

On the day of the exam:

  • Do not wear lotion, deodorant, or powder under your arms or on your breasts
  • Describe any problems you’re experiencing with your breasts with your technologist
  • Remove all jewelry and clothing from the waist up. You will be given a gown that opens in the front

What should I expect during this exam?

To image your breast, a x-ray technician will position you near the machine and your breast will be placed on a platform and compressed with a paddle. Breast compression is necessary in order to:

  • Even out the breast thickness - so that all of the tissue can be visualized. 
  • Spread out the tissue - so that small abnormalities won't be obscured. 
  • Allow use of a lower x-ray dose.
  • Hold the breast still - to eliminate blurring of the image caused by motion. 
  • Reduce x-ray scatter - to increase picture sharpness.

The technologist will go behind a glass shield while making the x-ray exposure. You will be asked to change positions slightly between views. The process is repeated for the other breast. Routine views are a top-to-bottom and side view.

What will I experience during the procedure?

The exam takes about a half an hour. The technologist will apply compression on your breast and, as a result, you will feel pressure on the breast as it is squeezed by the compressor. Some women with sensitive breasts may experience some minor discomfort. Be sure to inform the technologist if pain occurs as compression is increased. If discomfort is significant, less compression will be used.

American College of Radiology Accreditation

All of the mammography locations where DII provides services are accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR).  Click here to learn more about the ACR Mammography Accreditation Program.

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