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Screening mammography is a specific type of breast imaging that uses low-dose x-rays to detect cancer early before women experience symptoms when it is most treatable.
Tell your doctor about any breast symptoms or problems, prior surgeries, hormone use, whether you have a family or personal history of breast cancer, and if there's a possibility you are pregnant. If possible, obtain copies of your prior mammograms and make them available to your radiologist on the day of your exam. Leave jewellery at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You may be asked to wear a gown. Don't wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts as these may appear on the mammogram and interfere with correct diagnosis.
Mammography is specialized medical imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system to see inside the breasts. A mammography exam, called a mammogram, aids in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women.
An x-ray (radiograph) is a non-invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi utilizes some of the most recent advances in Mammography such as digital mammography with computer-aided detection and breast tomosynthesis.
Digital mammography, also called full-field digital mammography (FFDM), is a mammographysystem in which the x-ray film is replaced by electronics that convert x-rays into mammographic pictures of the breast. These systems are similar to those found in digital cameras and their efficiency enables better pictures with a lower radiation dose. These images of the breast are transferred to a computer for review by the radiologist and for long term storage.
Breast tomosynthesis, also called three-dimensional (3-D) mammography and digitalbreast tomosynthesis (DBT), is an advanced form of breast imaging where multiple images of the breast from different angles are captured and reconstructed ("synthesized") into a three- dimensional image set. In this way, 3-D breast imaging is similar to computed tomography (CT) imaging in which a series of thin "slices" are assembled together to create a 3-D reconstruction of the body.
Although the radiation dose for some breast tomosynthesis systems is slightly higher than thedosage used in standard mammography, it remains within the FDA-approved safe levels for radiation from mammograms. Some systems have doses very similar to conventional mammography.
Breast tomosynthesis may also result in:
Computer Aided Detection, is a form of artificial intelligence and assists in the detection and diagnosis of suspicious features on the mammogram, supporting the Radiologist and increasing detection rates of breast cancer in some cases.
Mammograms are used as a screening tool to detect early breast cancer in women experiencing no symptoms. They can also be used to detect and diagnose breast disease in women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain, skin dimpling or nipple discharge.
Mammography plays a central part in early detection of breast cancers because it can show changes in the breast years before a patient or physician can feel them. Current guidelinesfrom 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 ACR also suggest that women who have had breast cancer, and those who are at increased risk due to a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, should seek expert medical advice about whether they should begin screening before age 40 and the need for other types of screening. If you are at high risk for breast cancer, you may need to obtain a breast MRI in addition to your annual mammogram. It is also common to undergo an Ultrasound exam as part of breast imaging services especially if you're under the age of 40 or the mammogram indicates dense breast tissue or further clarification is required.
Diagnostic mammography is used to evaluate a patient with abnormal clinical findings”such as a breast lump or nipple discharge”that have been found by the woman or her doctor. Diagnostic mammography may also be done after an abnormal screening mammogram in order to evaluate the area of concern on the screening exam.
Before scheduling a mammogram, we recommend that you 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.
Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your menstrual period if your breastsare usually tender during this time. The best time for a mammogram is one week following your period. Always inform your doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant. 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. Obtain your prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist if they were done at a different location. This is needed for comparison with your current exam and can often be obtained on a CD.
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.
A mammography unit is a rectangular box that houses the tube in which x-rays are produced. The unit is used exclusively for x-ray exams of the breast, with special accessories that allow only the breast to be exposed to the x-rays. Attached to the unit is a device that holds and compresses the breast and positions it so images can be obtained at different angles.
Breasttomosynthesisis performedusingdigital mammography units, but not all digital mammography machines are equipped toperform tomosynthesis imaging.
X-rays are a form of radiation like light or radio waves. X-rays pass through most objects, including the body. Once it is carefully aimed at the part of the body being examined, an x-ray machine produces a small burst of radiation that passes through the body, recording an image on photographic film or a special detector. Different parts of the body absorb the x-rays in varying degrees. Dense bone absorbs much of the radiation while soft tissue, such as muscle, fat and organs, allow more of the x-rays to pass through them. As a result, bones appear white on the x-ray, soft tissue shows up in shades of grey and air appears black.
Most x-ray images are digital files that are stored electronically. These stored images are easily accessible for diagnosis and disease management.
In conventional film and digital mammography, a stationery x-ray tube captures an image from the side and an image from above the compressed breast. In breast tomosynthesis, the x-ray tube moves in an arc over the breast, capturing multiple images from different angles.
Mammography is performed on an outpatient basis.
During mammography, a specially qualified radiologic technologist will position your breast in the mammography unit. Your breast will be placed on a special platform and compressed with a clear plastic paddle. The technologist will gradually compress your breast.
Breast compression is necessary in order to:
You will be asked to change positions between images. The routine views are a top-to-bottom view and an angled side view. The process will be repeated for the other breast. Compression is still necessary for tomosynthesis imaging in order to minimize motion, which degrades the images. During screening breast tomosynthesis, two-dimensional images are also obtained or created from the synthesized 3-D images. You must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the x-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the x-ray machine.
When the examination is complete, you may be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.
The examination process should take about 30 minutes.
You will feel pressure on your breast as it is squeezed by the compression paddle. Some women with sensitive breasts may experience discomfort. If this is the case, schedule the procedure when your breasts are least tender. Be sure to inform the technologist if pain occurs as compression is increased. If discomfort is significant, less compression will be used. Always remember compression allows better quality mammograms.
A radiologist, 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 discuss the results with you. Follow-up exams may be needed. If so, your doctor will explain why. Sometimes a follow-up exam is done because a potential abnormality needs further evaluation with additional views or a special imaging technique. A follow-up exam may also be done to see if there has been any change in an abnormality over time.
Screening mammography reduces the risk of death due to breast cancer. It is useful for detecting all types of breast cancer, including invasive ductal and invasive lobular cancer.
Screening mammography improves a physician's ability to detect small tumours. When cancers are small, the woman has more treatment options. The use of screeningmammography increases the detection of small abnormal tissue growths confined to the milk ducts in the breast, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
No radiation remains in a patient's body after an x-ray examination. X-rays usually have no side effects in the typical diagnostic range for this exam.
There is always a slight chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk. The effective radiation dose for this procedure varies.
While mammography is the best screening tool for breast cancer available today, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. This is called a false negative result. On the other hand, when a mammogram looks abnormal and no cancer is present, this is called a false-positive result.
Screening mammographic images themselves are often not enough to determine the existence of a benign or malignant disease with certainty. If there are abnormalities, your radiologist may recommend further diagnostic studies.
It is very important to realize that not all breast cancers can be seen on mammography. Interpretations of mammograms can be difficult because a normal breast looks different for each woman. Also, the appearance of an image may be compromised if there is powder or salve on the breasts or if you have undergone breast surgery. Because some breast cancers are hard to visualize, a radiologist may want to compare the image to views from previousexaminations.
Breast implants can also impede accurate mammogram readings because both silicone and saline implants are not transparent on x-rays and can block a clear view of the tissues around them, especially if the implant has been placed in front of, rather than beneath, the chest muscles. Experienced technologists and radiologists know how to carefully compress the breasts to improve the view without rupturing the implant.
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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala Healthcare, and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.