A mammogram is a type of X-ray of the breasts. A screening mammogram usually involves two X-rays of each breast. A diagnostic mammogram involves more X-rays.
A screening mammogram is generally used to detect breast cancer or other changes in the breast tissue in women who do not have symptoms.
A diagnostic mammogram may be ordered when a screening mammogram shows something abnormal in the breast.
It may also be ordered if the woman has symptoms, such as: a discharge from the nipple other than breast milka lump or swelling in the breast or underarm areanipple painredness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skinretraction, or turning inward, of the nippleskin irritation or dimpling
Breast cancer screening with mammograms has reduced deaths from breast cancer in women 40 to 69 years of age.
For a screening mammography, the woman undresses to the waist and puts on a gown that opens from the front. The technologist places one breast on an X-ray film cassette, which resembles a metal shelf. The woman rests her breast on the film cassette. Usually the woman stands during this procedure.
A plastic paddle briefly squeezes the breast from above to flatten it out. This allows a clearer X-ray to be taken. Two views are usually taken of each breast for a screening mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram requires more views and more detail than the screening exam.
With modern mammography equipment used specifically for breast X-rays, very low levels of radiation are used. Some mammography units offer a stereotactic (x-ray guided) biopsy of any suspicious areas at the time of the examination. A woman is counseled and prepared for this by her healthcare professionals.
Examples of these newer techniques employed to gain a better diagnosis of breast abnormalities include: digital mammography, which records images in computer code instead of on X-ray filmMRI imaging, which uses a large magnet and radio frequencies to produce pictures of the breast tissuepositron emission tomography, or PET, which uses radioactive materials to create computer imagesradionuclides, which uses contrast agentsultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves instead of X-rays
It is recommended that a mammogram be scheduled one week after a woman's last period. Women should not wear powder, deodorant, lotion, or perfume under the arms or on the breasts. Wearing a two-piece outfit is suggested. Prior to the exam, all jewelry and metal objects need to be removed.
A mammogram can detect breast cancer, often before a lump can be felt. A mammogram may also show the following conditions: calcifications, or mineral depositscysts, or fluid-filled massesleaking breast implantsnoncancerous tumors or growths