What is Mammography?
Mammography is an X-ray examination of the breasts. The value of mammography lies in its ability to detect cancer in the breast while it is still very small – often too small to be felt and often too small to be detected any other way. When breast tissue is x-rayed, it creates an image that may contain tiny calcium deposits called microcalcifications or other subtle signs of cancer. The Selenia Digital Mammography system provides a detailed digital image that can detect early breast cancer. All of our exams are interpreted with the aid of a state-of-the-art R2 “Image Checker” Computer Aided Detection (CAD) system. CAD assists the Radiologist in the detection of suspicious calcifications and masses.
“I had a mammogram done by a friendly, caring professional. My primary doctor was impressed with the thorough report. I will be coming to River Radiology for my annual exam from now on!”
With Digital Mammography, the Radiologist reviews the electronic images of the breast using high resolution monitors and adjust the brightness, change contrast and zoom in for close-ups of specific areas. This is one of the main benefits of digital technology. Digital mammography saves time and reduces x-ray exposure, taking less than half the time of traditional film-based exams. Because they are electronic, digital images can be transmitted quickly to referring and consulting physicians, and can be easily stored and copied.
When is Mammography Indicated for Screening?
If your doctor has suggested that you have a mammogram, it does not necessarily mean he or she suspects that you have breast cancer. The earlier cancer is found, the better the chances of a cure. That’s why the American Cancer Society and American College of Radiology recommend yearly screening mammograms starting at age 40 for women at average risk of breast cancer. Women at increased risk (family history, genetic tendency, past breast cancer, etc.) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting screening earlier, having additional tests, or having more frequent exams.
When is Mammography Indicated for Symptoms?
Women with new symptoms such as a lump, nipple discharge, or pain in the breast should see their doctor to determine if they should have a diagnostic mammogram. The mammogram can provide more information to help determine whether or not a biopsy is advisable. Sometimes your doctor will also recommend an ultrasound examination of the breast, which can complement the findings on a mammogram. It is important to remember that most lumps and other symptoms do not turn out to be cancer – even if a biopsy is recommended.
What About Radiation Risk?
You may have heard or read that exposing the breasts to X-rays could actually increase the risk of developing breast cancer. This was an area of controversy that arose out of early research involving much larger doses of x-rays than those used in mammography today. Unfortunately, some women have been frightened away from having this potentially life-saving examination. In fact, modern mammography exposes the breast to only a very small amount of radiation, and today most experts in radiation biology feel that the risk is minimal – much less than the risk of not diagnosing early breast cancer.
The Mammography Procedure
You will be positioned for different views to obtain the best information. Both breasts will be x-rayed since it is often necessary to compare one breast with the other. Occasionally, additional views will be needed, to better show a particular part of the breast. During the exam, your breasts will be compressed briefly but firmly. This compression is extremely important, because reducing the overall thickness of the breast provides a much better picture and also results in less radiation exposure. This compression may be slightly uncomfortable for some women, but it only lasts for a few seconds. The radiologist will study the images and report the findings to your doctor. You will also receive a personal result letter from us within a few days. If you have additional questions or concerns, please discuss them with your doctor. Remember, the majority of women do not develop breast cancer, and the majority of breast disease, including most lumps and most mammographic changes, are not cancer. But if it is cancer, then the earlier it is discovered, the better the chance for a cure.
Your Mammography exam
Mammography is a quick and easy procedure. For a screening exam, please allow approximately 30 minutes. Allow an additional 30 minutes if an ultrasound or bone density exam is also scheduled. It is necessary to undress from the waist up for the exam and a gown will be provided. Your skin should be clean. Don’t use any deodorant, powder or lotion of any kind in your underarm or breast area, since the residue from such preparations can obscure your mammogram films. If you have deodorant on, we have wipes that you can use to take the deodorant off. Scripts are now required for all mammograms (diagnostic and screening). For more information you may visit http://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/mammograms-fact-sheet.
Remember - Mammography is not perfect!
While mammography is the single best method of detecting most breast cancers, it cannot find all cancers. Some cancers may be detectable only by physical examination. Some women may choose to do monthly breast self-examinations, as well as have annual exams by their doctor. If you or your doctor do feel something suspicious in your breast, remember that a normal mammogram cannot completely exclude the possibility of cancer – additional investigation (such as ultrasound, MRI, or biopsy) may be recommended. Remember also that most mammographic findings are not caused by cancer, even when additional testing or biopsy has been recommended.
When can my physician expect a copy of my report?
In most cases, reports are provided within two – three business days.
For women with a personal or strong family history of breast cancer, annual mammography may not be sufficient. That’s why River Radiology continues to invest in new technologies for breast cancer diagnosis.
Computer-Aided Detection (CAD) for Breast MRI
Ultrasound for Breast Imaging
For more information about breast cancer please visit www.acs.org