Understanding Digital Mammography (Mammograms)
A mammogram uses low doses of X-rays to examine the breast for abnormalities and signs of cancer. This brief exposure to a low dose of X-rays is relatively safe. Experts and doctors believe the use of a mammogram provides enough valuable breast information to outweigh any potential risks of radiation exposure.
In fact, mammography plays such an important role in a woman’s health that the American Cancer Society recommends screening mammography for breast cancer every year for women who have reached the age of 40. Mammograms play a central part in the early detection of breast cancer because they can detect changes in the breast before they can be felt in a breast examination. But mammograms are not 100 percent sensitive, so women should continue to have an annual breast examination with their WellStar physician as well as perform breast self-examinations every month.
A relatively new advance in screening for breast cancer, digital mammography is similar to standard mammography in that it employs X-rays to produce detailed images of the breast. But digital mammography, also called full-field digital mammography (FFDM), is equipped with a digital receptor and computer instead of a film cassette.
Like a conventional film mammogram, the digital mammogram still requires compression of the breast to allow the lowest possible dose of radiation. The technologist obtains images of the breast from different angles. With a digital mammogram, the images are available immediately on a computer without any delays to develop film. This means shortened exam times and reduction in the need for call-backs for additional images, the radiologist can better examine digital images by making them darker or lighter or magnifying certain areas.
WellStar Resources and Support
With digital mammography available at all imaging locations that provide mammograms, WellStar displays its commitment to providing the highest quality of care in the prevention and detection of breast cancer. WellStar uses the Selenia Digital Mammography System from Hologic, the most advanced mammographic imaging technology available for the early detection of breast cancer.
WellStar offers screening mammograms for women who initially exhibit no symptoms of breast cancer or abnormalities. Diagnostic mammograms are available to evaluate a possible abnormality found on a screening mammography or for patients with a known abnormality of the breast such as a lump, pain, skin changes or nipple discharge.
In addition to digital mammography, WellStar offers digital computer-aided detection (CAD). With CAD, a computer highlights any areas that have characteristics commonly associated with breast cancer, thus assisting the WellStar radiologist in making an accurate diagnosis.
Screening digital mammography is available at The Kennestone Womens Imaging Center, WellStar Kennestone Imaging Center in East Cobb, WellStar Kennestone Imaging Center at Towne Lake, WellStar Cobb Women’s Center, WellStar West Cobb Digital Mammography, WellStar Douglas Imaging Center, WellStar Paulding Hospital and WellStar Windy Hill Hospital. Diagnostic and screening digital mammography is available at The Jean & Mack Henderson Women’s Center at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, WellStar Cobb Women’s Center, WellStar Douglas Imaging Center, WellStar Paulding Hospital and WellStar Windy Hill Hospital.
Before the Procedure
Your WellStar physician may recommend a digital mammography one week following your period, especially if your breasts feel especially tender before your period. You should also inform your WellStar physician or radiologist if you believe you might be pregnant.
For the examination itself, you should wear a two-piece outfit and refrain from wearing deodorant, powers or perfumes as they could appear on the mammogram as calcium spots. Do not use caffeine products for two or three days before the examination.
The examination is an outpatient procedure and should take about 30 minutes.
During the Procedure
When you arrive, a WellStar nurse or technologist will ask you to fill out a medical history form and then ask you to remove all of your clothing above the waist and change into a gown.
The mammography unit is a rectangular box that houses the X-ray tubes and special accessories so that only the breasts are exposed to radiation. Attached to the unit is a device that holds and compresses the breast and positions it so images can be taken from several different angles. A technologist will assist you throughout the examination.
For the procedure, you must hold still and refrain from breathing for a few moments during each X-ray to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The technologist will ensure that the necessary images have been taken before completing the examination.
After the Procedure
Once you have completed a digital mammography, you may resume your normal, everyday activities. You should receive your patient report letter within five to 10 business days following your examination.