Mammography is a safe, simple exam that uses low dose x-ray procedure to take a picture of a woman's internal breast tissue. Mammography exams, called a mammogram, are used as a screening tool to diagnosis breast diseases or detect breast cancer in women with no symptoms. Changes in the breast can be detected up to two years before a patient or a doctor can feel them. Mammograms also serve as diagnostic tools to evaluate irregularities in the breast found by the woman or her doctor or as a follow up to an irregularity found in a screening mammogram.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women at low risk for breast cancer start receiving a screening mammogram no later than the age of 45. Women with a higher risk of breast cancer are encouraged to be screened sooner. Speak with your healthcare provider to determine the age you should start your screening and frequency at which you should receive a mammogram.
Before scheduling a mammogram, speak with your doctor about any new findings or problems in your breasts. Let your doctor know if you think you might be pregnant or if you have had prior surgeries, hormone use, or history of cancer. The best time to schedule your mammogram is the week after your period.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- Avoid wearing deodorant, powders or jewelry the day of the exam as they may interfere with the accuracy of the screening
- If possible, bring previous mammograms for comparison.
A mammography is an outpatient exam that will take approximately 15 to 30 minutes. A radiologic technologist will perform the exam. The technologist specializes in mammography and has completed a rigorous course in education and training. In addition the technologist works closely with the radiologist to ensure the most accurate results.
You will be asked to undress from the waist up. The technologist will position your breast on the mammography unit and gently compress it using the image plate. The purpose of the compression is to even out the thickness of the breast tissue allowing for a lower does of x-ray and a clearer x-ray image. The amount of radiation received is about the same as the amount received flying round-trip from New York to Los Angeles. Two or three pictures will be taken then the process will be repeated for the other breast.
You will feel pressure on your breast as the compressor squeezes it. Be sure to tell the technologist if the pain is severe.
It is important to remember to hold very still during the procedure to prevent a blurred image. The radiologic technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the x-ray machine.
When the exam is complete, one of the Women's Diagnostic Center's Board Certified Radiologists (a physician specialist) will study your mammogram. Your designated health care provider or practitioner will provide your results to you.