Mammography is an exclusive medical imaging that utilizes low dose x-ray radiation to visualize the breasts. A mammography exam is to aid in the early diagnosis and detection of breast cancer, particularly in women who have no signs and symptoms of the disease.
An x-ray is a non-invasive and painless medical exam that helps detect and treat medical conditions. Imaging with a mammography scan involves exposing a specific part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to create more detailed image. X- rays imaging is considered as one of the oldest and most widely used imaging tools.
Mammograms are used to examine a woman for breast cancer. A lot of times they are also a regular screening test for women above the age of 45. This type of mammography is called screening mammography.
Mammogram scans can also be used to check breasts after lymph nodes, or other symptoms are found. This type of mammography is called diagnosing mammography. A diagnostic mammogram can also be used to monitor changes found during a screening mammogram. They also help in analysing breast tissues for certain cases such as presence of breast implants.
The same machines are used to perform both mammograms. However, diagnostic mammography takes a longer time to perform as compared to screening. The total dose of radiation is higher in diagnostic than screening because more x-ray images are required to obtain views of the breast from several angles.
The technicians may also magnify a susceptible area to produce a more detailed picture that can help the doctors to make an accurate diagnosis.
A mammography unit is a cuboidal box that in frames the tube. The unit is used especially for x-ray exams of the breast with special accessories that allow only the breast to be exposed to the radiations. A device is attached to the unit that holds and compresses the breast and its position so that several images can be produced from different angles.
It is advised not to schedule a mammography scan from the week before your menstrual period as the breasts tender during that time. The best time for a mammogram scan is one week after the periods. Always inform the doctor or technician about your pregnancy before the mammography session.
Few precautions are needed to be followed for a mammography scan is:
Do not use deodorants, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or your breasts on the day of mammography.
During the process, a technician/radiologist will position the breast into the mammography unit. The breasts are placed on a special platform and compressed with a plastic paddle. Breast compression is mandatory in order to:
Allow the use of a lower radiation dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged.
Provide uniform thickness to the breast so that all of the tissue can be visualized.
Hold the breast still in order to reduce the blurring of the image caused by movement.
The patient will be asked to change positions between the scan. The top-to-bottom view and an angled side view are the routine views in the mammography examination. The process will be repeated for the other breast too. The entire process may take 30-45 minutes.
The usage of screening mammography may help in prevention if the breast cancer is caught at a certain stage. It is useful in the detection of all types of breast cancer.
The screening mammography enhances the detection of smaller abnormal tissue growth limited to the milk ducts in the breasts.
The false-positive result occurs when the radiologists notice an abnormality on a mammogram, but no cancer is actually present. False-positive results may lead to anxiety and other forms of psychological distress in women. It is more common in younger women and women with dense breasts.
Recent advances in mammography include digital mammography, computer-aided detection (COD), and breast tomosynthesis.
Digital mammography or full-field digital mammography (FFDM) is a mammography technique in which x-ray film is replaced automatically and convert x-ray into mammography images. The images of the breast are transferred to a computer and visualized by radiologists.
Computer-aided detection – CAD searches digitized mammographic pictures for abnormal regions of mass, density, and calcification that may indicate the presence of cancer. CAD system marks these areas on images and alerts the radiologist to examine this area carefully.
Breast Tomosynthesis – This is an advanced form of breast imaging known as three-dimensional mammography (3-D) or digital breast tomosynthesis, where multiple images from different angles are captured and reconstructed into a three dimensional set of image.
Mammography Scan Available At House of Diagnostics (HOD).
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