Women’s Imaging Center FAQs
What Is Mammography?
Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts. A mammography exam, called a mammogram, is used to aid in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women.
Two recent advances in mammography include digital mammography and computer-aided detection.
Digital mammography, also called full-field digital mammography (FFDM), is a mammography system in which the x-ray film is replaced by solid-state detectors that convert x-rays into electrical signals. These detectors are similar to those found in digital cameras. The electrical signals are used to produce images of the breast that can be seen on a computer screen or printed on special film similar to conventional mammograms. From the patient’s point of view, having a digital mammogram is essentially the same as having a conventional film screen mammogram.
Computer-aided detection (CAD) systems use a digitized mammographic image that can be obtained from either a conventional film mammogram or a digitally acquired mammogram. The computer software then searches for abnormal areas of density, mass, or calcification that may indicate the presence of cancer. The CAD system highlights these areas on the images, alerting the radiologist to the need for further analysis.
What are some common uses of the procedure?
Mammograms are used as a screening tool to detect early breast cancer in women experiencing no symptoms and to detect and diagnose breast disease in women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge.
Digital Mammography plays a central part in early detection of breast cancers because it can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Current guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) recommend screening mammography every year for women, beginning at age 40. Research has shown that annual mammograms lead to early detection of breast cancers, when they are most curable and breast-conservation therapies are available.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) adds that women who have had breast cancer and those who are at increased risk due to a genetic history of breast cancer should seek expert medical advice about whether they should begin screening before age 40 and about the frequency of screening.
How should I prepare?
Before scheduling a mammogram, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and other specialty organizations recommend that you discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your doctor. In addition, inform your doctor of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer.
Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time for a mammogram is usually within one week of your last menses. Always inform your doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.
The ACS also recommends you:
Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam. These can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist at the time of the current exam.
Ask when your results will be available; do not assume the results are normal if you do not hear from your doctor or the mammography facility.
How is the procedure performed?
Digital Mammography is performed on an outpatient basis.
During visit, a specially qualified radiologic technologist will position your breast in the mammography unit. Your breast will be placed on a digital mammography unit and compressed with a paddle (often made of clear Plexiglass or other plastic). The technologist will gradually compress your breast.
Breast compression is necessary in order to:
- Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualized.
- Spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities are less likely to be obscured by overlying breast tissue.
- Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged.
- Hold the breast still in order to minimize blurring of the image caused by motion.
- Reduce x-ray scatter to increase sharpness of picture.
- You will be asked to change positions between images. The routine views are a top-to-bottom view and an oblique side view. The process will be repeated for the other breast.
- You must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the x-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the x-ray machine.
- The examination process should take about 30 minutes.
What will I experience during and after the procedure?
You will feel pressure on your breast as it is squeezed by the compression paddle. Some women with sensitive breasts may experience discomfort. If this is the case, schedule the procedure when your breasts are least tender. Be sure to inform the technologist if pain occurs as compression is increased. If discomfort is significant, less compression will be used.
Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
Dr. Petti or Dr. Mazzei , who are specifically trained to supervise and interpret digital mammograms and ultrasounds, will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will then discuss the results with you.
We will notify you of your results by the mammography facility.
What is Ultrasound Imaging?
Ultrasound imaging, also known as ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams don’t use ionizing radiation (as used in x-rays). Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.
Ultrasound imaging is a non-invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.
How should I prepare?
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes for your ultrasound exam. You may have to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined.
Tell your doctor if you have had a barium enema or a series of upper GI (gastrointestinal) tests within the past two days. Barium that remains in the intestines can interfere with the ultrasound test.
Other preparations depend on the kind of ultrasound you are having.
- For a study of the liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas, you might be asked to eat a fat-free meal on the evening before the test and then to avoid eating for eight to 12 hours before the test.
- For ultrasound of the kidneys, you might be asked to drink four to six glasses of liquid about an hour before the test to fill your bladder. You may be asked to avoid eating for eight to 12 hours before the test to avoid gas buildup in the intestines.
What are some common uses of the procedure?
Ultrasound imaging is performed to evaluate the:
- Uterus and ovaries
- Abdominal aorta and other blood vessels of the abdomen
Ultrasound Guided Core Needle Biopsy
A core needle biopsy is a type of biopsy that uses a needle to obtain small cores of tissue from the lesion in question. After the area is numbed with lidocaine, a core needle is inserted through the skin of the breast.
A small core of tissue is removed. Several samples of the lesion will be taken through the same small opening in the skin. This test may cause a bruise, but rarely leaves a scar. The patient can safely drive home after the
procedure. The only restrictions are to keep it dry and to avoid heavy lifting or exercising until the next day. The specimen is then sent to the contracted lab for pathologic evaluation and the patient gets results within a few days.