Mammography is a specific type of breast imaging that uses a low dose system to see inside the breasts. It is used as a screening tool to detect early breast cancer in women experiencing no symptoms. It is also used to detect and diagnose breast disease in women experiencing symptoms such as lumps, pain, skin dimpling and nipple discharge.
How the procedure is performed
The radiographer will position your breast in the mammography unit and place it on a special platform and compress with a clear plastic paddle. The radiographer will then gradually compress your breast.
Please note that: some women with sensitive breasts may experience some discomfort if that happens please be sure to inform the radiographer if pain occurs as compression is increased and if the discomfort is significant, less compression will be used.
Breast compression is necessary in order to:
- Even out the breast thickness so that all the tissue can be visualized and spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities are less likely to be hidden by overlying breast tissue,
- To hold the breast tissue still in order to minimize blurring of the image caused by motion
You will be asked to change positions between images and the process will be repeated for the other breast. When the examination is complete, you may be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.
How long will it take?
A mammogram exam usually takes anytime between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
How safe is a Mammogram?
Mammography is a relatively safe exam that uses low dose x-rays. Only the region being examined (the breasts) is the only part of the body exposed to the low dose radiation.
Preparation before the Mammogram exam
It is not advised to schedule your mammogram for a week before your menstrual period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. You must always inform the radiographer if there is any possibility that you could pregnant.
Please also be aware:
- That you should not use any deodorant, powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam as they may appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
- Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the radiographer performing the examination.
- Make any previous mammograms available to the radiologist in order for them to compare with the current exam.
When will I get my results?
The radiologist will examine the images and will write a signed report to your referring doctor who will then discuss the results with you.