Digital Mammography – Frequently Asked Questions

Digital Mammography – Frequently Asked Questions

What is digital mammography?

Digital mammography is a x-ray technique where the x-ray film is replaced by a digital detector and can be viewed using specialized software tools.

Because the mammogram is digitally displayed, the radiologist can change the contrast of the mammogram images in order to better demonstrate some abnormalities. Digital mammography can increase accuracy and breast cancer detection in women with dense breasts, especially women under 50.

Radiation exposure can be decreased because images are immediately available for review, decreasing recall rates for motion, position and artifacts.

Who should have a screening mammogram?

The American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology and the National Cancer Institute recommend that women begin having yearly mammograms at age 40 and continue lifelong while they remain healthy.

Does a screening mammogram find all breast cancers present?

Unfortunately, no. There currently is no 100% effective method for detecting breast cancer. Many cancers are too small or soft to be felt, but can be seen on a mammogram. Some types of cancers can be felt more easily than they can be seen on the mammogram. In fact, 10-15% of breast cancers cannot be seen on the mammogram. Therefore, your best protection against breast cancer is using every detection method available – breast self-examination and mammography.

Is a mammogram painful?

For most women, a mammogram is not painful, merely uncomfortable and only for the few seconds that the breast is compressed. Try to schedule your mammogram at a time other than immediately before or during your period, because your breasts may be more sensitive at those times.

Compression is very important because it optimizes the quality of the examination, ensures that the breast thickness is uniform so that small abnormalities will not be hidden by the overlying breast tissue.

Why might I be called back for a diagnostic mammogram?

You may get a callback if the radiologist sees something on your screening mammogram that requires further examination. Don’t worry – getting a callback does NOT mean you have cancer. About 1 out of every 10 patients is called back for additional views, but most do NOT have cancer.

How is a diagnostic mammogram different from a screening mammogram?

A diagnostic mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that is used to provide the physician with a more focused set of images of areas of concern that were detected on a screening mammogram, or to specifically evaluate a lump or other complaint with mammography.

A diagnostic mammogram usually involves taking more images of the breast than is done in a typical screening mammogram. In addition to the views done during a screening mammogram, your diagnostic mammogram may also involve spot compression and magnification views to zoom in on a particular area of interest in the breast.

Breast ultrasound is frequently performed after a diagnostic mammogram to provide additional information about the area of concern.

What to Expect During Your Exam (How is a 3-D mammogram performed?)

A tomosynthesis exam is very similar to a traditional mammogram. Just as with a digital mammogram, the technologist will position you, compress your breast under a paddle and take images from different angles. A breast tomosynthesis exam may be used as a screening tool in conjunction with a traditional digital mammogram or may be used by itself for a diagnostic mammogram.

During the tomosynthesis portion of the exam, your breast will be under compression while the x-ray arm of the mammography machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of breast images at a number of angles. This will only take a few seconds, and all of the images are viewed by the technologist at their computer workstation to ensure they have captured adequate images for review by a radiologist.

The whole procedure time should be approximately the same as that of a digital mammogram. The technologist sends your breast images electronically to the radiologist, who studies them and reports results to both you and your physician.

3-D Mammography (Tomosynthesis) Physician FAQ

What is 3-D mammography or Breast Tomosynthesis?or Breast Tomosynthesis?

  • A 3-D screening modality that preserves the very high resolution of 2-D FFDM (Full Field Digital Mammography)
  • Multiple images of the breast are acquired at different angles during a sweep of the x-ray tube
  • Allows radiologists to see around overlapping structures

How does 3-D Mammography (tomosynthesis) help my patient?

  • ROC analysis demonstrated that 2-D plus 3-D is superior to 2-D alone
  • With tomosynthesis:
    • Patient recall rates should be lower
    • Exam sensitivity should be higher
    • Radiologist performance is improved

Why 3-D mammography?

Early trials indicate it to have increased sensitivity in detecting non-palpable cancer, especially in women with dense breast tissue

Is 3-D mammography more expensive than current mammography technology?

No, at Peninsula Diagnostic Imaging, we currently bill patients the same charge for 3-D Mammography as 2-D.

Do I need to write my prescription time longer for 3-D Mammography than 2-D?

The time to acquire images is approximately the same for 3-D mammography as 2-D

Does 3-D Mammography require special training for radiologists and technologists of participating imaging center?

Yes, and the medical staff at Peninsula Diagnostic Imaging have undergone the necessary training to effectively, efficiently and accurately provide high quality 3-D mammography for our patients.

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