Mammography

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 noninvasive 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.

How do mammograms work?

A mammogram uses a machine designed to look only at breast tissue. The machine takes x-rays at lower doses than usual x-rays. Because these x-rays don’t go through tissue easily, the machine has 2 plates that compress or flatten the breast to spread the tissue apart. This gives a better picture and allows less radiation to be used.

The recent advances in mammography include breast tomosynthesis.

3D Mammography

A newer type of mammogram known as breast tomosynthesis or 3D mammography 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. Screening with breast tomosynthesis results in improved breast cancer detection rates and fewer “call-backs,” instances where women are called back from screening for additional testing because of a potentially abnormal finding.

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.

Screening Mammograms

Screening mammograms simply look for signs of cancer. These procedures are x-ray exams of the breasts done yearly in women who have no breast symptoms or changes in their breast exam. The goal of a screening mammogram is to detect breast cancer as early as possible – when it’s too small to be felt by a woman or her doctor.

A screening mammogram usually takes two pictures of each breast. After obtaining these standard views, the patient is done and the exam is then read by the radiologist

Diagnostic Mammograms

Mammograms can also be used to look at a woman’s breast if she has a breast problem or if a change is seen on a screening mammogram. When used in this way, they are called diagnostic mammograms. They may include extra views (images) of the breast that aren’t part of screening mammograms. Sometimes diagnostic mammograms are used to screen women who were treated for breast cancer in the past.