What is Digital Mammography?
Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts. The Radiology Clinic used digital mammography and computer-aided detection, two recent enhancements to traditional mammography.
Digital mammography is a mammography system in which the x-ray film is replaced by solid-state detectors that convert x-rays into electrical signals. These detectors are similar to those found in digital cameras. The electrical signals are used to produce images of the breast that can be seen on a computer screen. With digital mammography, the magnification, orientations, brightness, and contrast of the mammogram images may also be altered after the exam is completed to help the radiologist more clearly see certain areas of the breast. The computer-aided detection (CAD) system uses computer software to search the digital images for abnormal areas of density, mass, or calcification that may indicate the presence of cancer. The CAD systems then highlights these areas on the images, alerting the radiologist to the need for further analysis.
Digital mammogram images can be sent to other physicians via the Radiology Clinic's electronic network or images can be printed on film for review or mail.
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. 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. Research has shown that annual mammograms lead to early detection of breast cancers when they are most curable and breast-conservation therapies are available.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) adds 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.
It is best to wear a two piece outfit, if possible, as you will be asked to remove all clothing above the waist. Please do not use perfume, powder or lotion until after the examination. Certain chemicals in these products can produce misleading examination results.
If you have prior films from another facility, please bring them with you. If this is not possible, let us know where these studies were performed so that we can retrieve them.
Approximately 30 - 60 minutes should be allowed for the examination. You may be at The Radiology Clinic longer than that due to check-in and interview with the technologist.
If you have children, please make arrangements for childcare, as there are no childcare facilities on site. Due to radiation exposure, children are not allowed in the examination room.
What to Expect
You will be escorted to a dressing room by a mammography technologist, instructed to undress from the waist up and given a gown. During the examination the technologist will position your breast in a compression device. This is used to decrease the overall thickness of the breast during filming thus providing a clearer image. It also allows for a lower radiation dose. The compression, which may be uncomfortable to some women, lasts a few seconds and is released after each exposure. A routine mammogram consists of two views of each breast.
Screening mammograms (patients with no new problems) are checked by the technologist for technical quality before the patient leaves the clinic. All mammograms are read by the radiologist the next morning. If additional views or an ultrasound is needed, you will be called for a return visit.
Diagnostic mammograms (patients with acute problems) are checked by the radiologist while the patient is still in the clinic. If needed, additional views or an ultrasound will be obtained at this visit.
Your referring physician will be provided results 3-4 working days after your examination. You will receive a letter describing the results of your examination within 10 days.
You may wish to avoid mammography the week prior to your menstrual cycle due to breast tenderness.
If you think you are pregnant or may be pregnant, please notify the technologist prior to your exam.
The Mammography program at The Radiology Clinic is accredited by the American College of Radiology.