Frequently asked questions
About Mammograms

Frequently asked questions


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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.

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. Full field digital mammography is now considered the gold standard due to resolution being so much better than any other past screening method.
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 radiologist at the time of the current exam.
Mammography is performed on an outpatient basis. During mammography, a specially qualified mammography technologist will position your breast in the mammography unit. Your breast will be placed on a special platform and compressed with a paddle (often made of clear Plexiglas or other plastic). As soon as the image is taken, the compression is released. This means minimum disconfort for patients. The examination process should take about 10 minutes.
The Screening Mammogram uses 4 images, two of the right breast and two of the left breast. The radiologist can determine if a mammogram is negative or benign. Negative means that there are cysts or nodules that are not malignant.
If the radiologist sees something on the mammogram that is questionable, a Diagnostic Mammogram may be recommended. The Diagnostic Mammogram is composed of additional images. The radiologist may order a magnification view or a compression view to see if the questionable abnormality disappears. If it remains, the radiologist may order a breast biopsy or another mammogram in 3 or 6 months. Additional imaging such as a Breast MRI may also be recommended depending on the mass seen.
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