What is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray with high-contrast, high-resolution film for examination of the breasts to assist in the detection of breast diseases.
There are (2) types of mammogram: screening and diagnostic.
What is a Screening Mammogram?
A screening mammogram is usually for a patient with no history of breast problems or symptoms and is a central part in early detection of breast cancers. It is performed by our highly skilled mammography technologists and interpreted by a board certified radiologist specializing in mammography. A written report with the results of this exam will be sent to you and your physician. You are not examined or seen by a radiologist.
What is a Diagnostic Mammogram?
A dianostic mammogram is usually for a patient who finds a lump, has a breast problem, breast cancer or mastectomy.
Preparing for Your Mammogram
When you are called by our patient expediter, you will be escorted to a changing area. The patient expediter will instruct you to change into a gown, requiring you to remove your clothing from the waist up. After you have changed, you will place your clothing in a locker, lock it with a key and then sit in the gowned waiting room.
The Mammogram Procedure
The technologist performing your examination will take you to one of the private examination rooms to review your mammography history form. Although the mammogram equipment may look imposing, a mammography procedure is relatively simple to perform, and all of our technologists are specially trained to position you and the machine for the highest quality images possible. The mammography equipment may be tilted to improve the maximum exposure of your breast during image acquisition.
The actual time required to obtain the necessary pictures of your breast is about ten minutes. The breast is first placed on a special cassette and compressed with a paddle.
The technologist will take two images of each of your breasts, which will require the breast to be compressed for a few seconds during the actual x-ray portion of the exam. Although uncomfortable, the compression will not harm your breast in any way, and is necessary for optimal image acquisition. Be sure to inform the technologist if you experience pain during compression.
After your examination is done, the technologist will have you wait in the gowned waiting room. It is necessary that you remain in the waiting room until the technologist reviews your films to ensure that additional images of your breast are not needed. After this review, the technologist will take you back to the changing area where you will change back into your clothes, and leave our facility.
Interpreting Your Results
After your screening mammogram is completed and you have left our facility, one of our highly skilled board certified radiologists specializing in mammography will interpret your films. The radiologist will study, or “read” your films and identify any abnormalities or “findings”. The radiologist will also utilize the computer aided diagnosis (CAD) system which acts as a second pair of eyes. The radiologist will issue a radiology report to your referring physician and a letter with your results will be mailed to you. If additional tests are necessary, you will be notified by certified letter to return for a diagnostic mammogram and/or a breast ultrasound exam.
A diagnostic mammogram is read in real-time by the radiologist, and you will be given your results before you leave the facility.
What if it is negative?
A negative mammogram means that the radiologist did not see any abnormalities in the breast tissue on the films. In general you should continue with monthly self-examinations, regular examinations by your physician, and have a mammogram within a year or two, depending on the guidelines suggested by your age and your personal physician. Unfortunately, mammography is not a perfect test: it does not detect all breast cancers either palpable or nonpalpable. This is particularly true if your breast tissue is very dense. It is important not to ignore a new breast problem, such as a lump, even if you discover it after a negative mammogram.
What if your study is abnormal?
An abnormal mammogram means that the radiologist has identified a “finding” on your mammogram. This abnormality requires further evaluation. The vast majority of such findings are benign or non-cancerous.
Additional tests to evaluate irregularities in breast tissue include special mammographic views, ultrasound and biopsy. In breast ultrasound, the radiologist uses sound waves to produce images of the breast. With these images, the radiologist can determine whether a lump seen on the mammogram is a non-worrisome fluid-filled cyst, or a solid mass or complex cyst, which may require additional attention.
Lumps that are solid (noncystic) often require biopsy to determine their origin. In a biopsy, tissue is removed from the lump and the surrounding area of the breast and is tested for malignancy. Biopsy may be performed with a large-gauge needle or by surgical incision, depending on the indications and patient and physician preferences.