A mammogram is a special kind of X-ray designed specifically for the breast. Mammograms allow your doctor to more closely examine the breasts for changes in breast tissue. These tests can show small lumps or abnormalities that may not be detectable by means of a clinical or self-breast exam.
Mammography is the best screening tool that doctors have for finding breast cancer. Three types exist:
- Screening mammograms are performed, typically once a year, for women who have no symptoms of breast cancer.
- Diagnostic mammograms are performed when a woman has symptoms of breast cancer or a breast lump. This mammogram takes longer than screening mammograms because more pictures of the breast are taken.
- Digital mammograms also use X-rays to produce detailed images of the breast. However, digital mammography is equipped with a digital receptor and a computer instead of a film cassette.
- The mammography technologist will give you all the instructions for your mammogram. The total time needed to perform the mammogram is about 15 minutes.
- You will stand in front of a special X-ray machine. A radiologic (mammography) technologist will place your breast between two plastic plates. The plates press your breast to make it as flat as possible.
- You will feel pressure on your breast for a few seconds. It may cause you some discomfort; you might feel squeezed or pinched as the technologist attempts to flatten your breast. The flatter your breast is, the better the picture will be. Most often, two pictures are taken of each breast--one from the side and one from above.
Follow these general guidelines and ask for special instructions when you schedule:
- Make your mammogram appointment for one week after your period, if possible. Your breasts will hurt less during that time.
- If you have breast implants, be sure to tell your mammography facility when you make your appointment.
- Wear a shirt with shorts, pants or a skirt, allowing you to undress only from the waist up when you get your mammogram.
- Don't wear deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder under your arms or on your breasts on the day of your mammogram appointment. They can cause shadows on your mammogram film.
The Genius 3D Mammography Exam
While digital mammography is still one of the most advanced technologies available today, it is only a 2-Dimensional picture of the breast. MedStar St. Mary's Hospital offers state-of-the-art 3D mammography exams, an advanced technique in the fight against breast cancer. The Genius exam is very similar to having a conventional 2D mammogram, however it allows doctors to examine your breast layer by layer and view any masses or distortions associated with cancers more clearly. Instead of viewing all the complexities of your breast tissue in a flat image (2D), fine details are more visible and no longer hidden by the tissue above or below (3D). There is no additional compression required with the Genius exam and it only takes a few seconds longer than a traditional digital mammography. Learn more about this process.
Patients can now receive Genius 3D Mammography at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. The Genius exam is the first and only clinically superior breast tomosynthesis exam approved by the FDA. The 3D mammography can detect 41 percent more invasive breast cancers and reduce false positive readings.
If you are interested in a 3D mammogram, please notify your technologist at the beginning of your appointment. Patients are encouraged to contact their insurance companies prior to their visit.
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What to Expect at Your Mammogram
- A low dose form of X-ray is used to capture an image of the breast. The technologist will place the breast between a plastic plate and an image receptor, then compress it to achieve two images at different angles. Occasionally, more images are taken to ensure the entire breast is captured.
- The ordering physician will receive faxed copies of the images. The patient will receive mailed results within 7-10 days.