What is a mammogram?
Mammograms are currently the best way to identify the signs of breast cancer before other major symptoms occur. This screening is a specific type of x-ray that shows variations in breast tissue, indicating potential abnormality.
What does a mammogram show?
Just like an x-ray of a bone shows areas of light and dark, indicating abnormalities, so does a mammogram. This screening is performed to identify signs of cancerous cell growth. However, mammography can pick up a number of breast conditions. These include:
- Calcifications, tiny clusters of calcium particles in breast tissue. These can sometimes indicate the early signs of breast cancer.
- Macrocalcifications, larger clusters of calcium particles most often represent non-cancerous breast cell activity.
- Cysts, fluid-filled sacs in breast tissue. This is a common condition that typically does not indicate breast cancer, nor an increased risk of the disease.
- Fibroadenomas, movable, solid lumps formed from normal breast cells. They are not cancerous.
- Non-invasive breast cancer. This condition is referred to as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). It involves breast cancer cells that are localized in the milk ducts only.
- Invasive breast cancer cells do not stay within a localized region, but spread through the breast tissue. On a mammogram, this may look like a white mass with fuzzy borders.
How often should I receive a mammogram?
It is generally recommended that women begin scheduling yearly mammograms starting at age 40. After age 55, barring known risk factors, women may reduce screenings to every two years.
What should a woman expect when having a mammogram?
Getting a mammogram takes only about half an hour in most cases. Once a woman arrives for her screening, she can expect the following:
- To remove clothing from the waist up. A robe that opens in the front is worn during the screening.
- The mammogram technologist may ask about any abnormalities in the breast, such as lumps. Known abnormalities are marked to indicate the area the radiologist should observe closely.
- To be positioned in front of the mammogram machine with one breast exposed. The technologist adjusts one plate to support the breast from below. An upper place is adjusted to gently compress breast tissue. This holds tissue secure and also minimizes the amount of radiation that is needed to obtain accurate images.
- The technologist may take several images from different views. This may require adjustment of the breast.
- After the first breast has been screened, the same process is repeated for the other breast.
- When the screening is done, the patient may be asked to wait a short time while films are reviewed. Sometimes, the radiologist requests additional images.
What’s the difference between 2D and 3D mammograms?
2-dimensional mammography has been the norm for many years. This technology captures images of the breast from the side and front only. That’s two images of each breasts. 3-dimensional mammography captures multiple views of the breast using an arc-rotation. After images are obtained, they are reconstructed into a 3D model using computer software. The difference in time is a few seconds. The difference in accuracy is significant.
3D mammograms are a type of digital imaging that facilitates the observation of multiple layers of breast tissue. Clinical research has shown that 3D mammography is approximately 40 percent more sensitive than 2D mammography imaging. This makes newer technology more accurate in discerning dense breast tissue from breast cancer.
Are mammograms painful?
Mammograms have a reputation for being painful. Based on early-model mammogram devices, we can understand why. However, technology has changed the way that providers perform mammograms and most patients describe this screening as minimally uncomfortable. Discomfort is related to the pressure that is placed on the breasts during screening. While some degree of compression is necessary, newer machines, especially using 3D technology, require much less. Technologists also utilize various comfort measures to improve the screening process.
Discomfort during a mammogram can also relate to the time of month a screening occurs.
Try not to schedule your mammogram between the time you ovulate and the time your period starts. Additional factors that could increase the chances of discomfort include the size of the breasts and the positions used during the test. Our technologists are careful to use gentle positioning and swift imaging techniques.
Are mammograms covered by insurance?
If you have medical insurance, according to the Affordable Care Act you should receive coverage for mammogram screenings every 1 to 2 years. There should be no out-of-pocket costs for qualified patients (women age 40 and older).
SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION
We are proud to offer radiology services within our facility to make it more comfortable and convenient for our patients. If it is time for your yearly mammogram, contact us today at (941) 745-5115 or fill out the form below to schedule a consultation. Our practice serves Bradenton, FL and the surrounding areas.