During a Mammogram low-dose X-rays are used to scan your breasts. The images are checked for irregularities and doctors can compare the results with the images from previous tests. During a full field digital mammography x-rays are converted into digital mammographic images. Like a digital camera they can be transferred to a computer for long term storage. An alternative to using the traditional film mammogram, digital mammography screening of this kind is more efficient and enables better pictures with a lower radiation dose. This ensures breast cancer is highlighted early – before any symptoms are experienced – when it is most treatable.
How is the procedure performed?
A patient’s experience during a Full Field Digital Mammography is similar to the conventional film mammogram. During the screening a specially qualified radiologic technologist (mammographer) 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 then gradually compress your breast.
Breast compression is necessary in order to:
• Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualised.
• Ensure small abnormalities are less likely to be hidden by overlying breast tissue.
• Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose and reduce x-ray scatter to increase sharpness of picture.
Between images you will be asked to change positions. The routine views are a top-to-bottom view (CC) and an angled side view (MLO).
Any small increased risk from radiation exposure is likely to be outweighed by the benefit of detecting breast cancer early.
Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
If your breasts are usually tender in the week before your menstrual period we advise you do not schedule a digital mammogram for this time. The optimum time for a mammogram is in the week following your period.
It is also vital you inform your doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you could be pregnant.
Before screening we recommend:
• You obtain your prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist even if they were done at a different hospital.
• You describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
• You refrain from wearing 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.
One the procedure is complete a report will be validated and made available to the consultant almost immediately. If the patient needs intervention (Biopsy or FNA) the specimen is sent to the pathology laboratory. Results will be sent to the consultant, the patient will have a follow up appointment to discuss the result.