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What is a mammogram?
Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts. A mammography exam, called a mammogram, is used to aid in the diagnosis of breast diseases in women.
- Images are taken from the top and the side of the breast.
- In order to ensure an accurate and clear picture, the breast tissue must be compressed firmly between two flat plates whilst the x-ray is being taken. The plates also rest against the chest wall to allow all possible tissue into the image, optimising the results.
- The Specialist Radiologist may require further mammography ‘spot’ films or ultrasound imaging of the breast to complete their report. You should be contacted by your referring doctor if this is required.The GE Seno DS Digital mammography unit in use at 31 Old Broad Street 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 or printed on special film similar to conventional mammograms. From the patient’s point of view, digital mammography is essentially the same as the screen-film system.
What are some common uses of a digital mammography?
Mammograms are used as a screening tool to detect early breast cancer in women experiencing no symptoms and to detect and diagnose breast disease in women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge.
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.
How should I prepare for my mammogram?
Before scheduling a mammogram with us, discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your doctor. In addition, inform your doctor of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer. Always inform your doctor or the radiographer if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.
We also recommend you:
- Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam. These can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
- Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
- If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available to the mammographer at the time of the current exam.
- Ask when your results will be available; do not assume the results are normal if you do not hear from your doctor or the mammography facility.
Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
A Consultant Radiologist is a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyse the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will share the results with you. You will however get a copy of the images to take with you.
Breast biopsy or localisation If an abnormality is positively identified by a set of mammography films, the area involved may have to be tested or localised with the mammography equipment.
- If an area is noted on the mammogram or the ultrasound, tissue testing must be done under ultrasound or x-ray guidance using a specialised attachment on the mammography unit if it can only be seen on the mammogram.
- Prior to surgery the breast consultant may require localisation of the area of interest through ultrasound or mammography.
- For either of these procedures, the skin of the breast will be cleaned by the radiologist and a sterile needle inserted into the tissue under imaging guidance. This needle will sample tissue or introduce a guide wire to be used by the surgeon during theatre.
- If localisation is needed, a final set of two mammography films are done to confirm the position of the guide wire.
- Local anaesthetic will be used for some biopsies and localisations if it is appropriate. It causes more pain than some of the needles, though, so this is at the radiologist’s discretion.
You will be provided with a leaflet if there is certain aftercare required for any of these procedures. Please follow the instructions provided in the literature or by the radiologist.