What is Digital Mammography?
Digital (computerized) mammography is similar to standard mammography in that x-rays are used to produce detailed images of the breast. Digital mammography uses essentially the same mammography system as conventional mammography, but the system is equipped with a digital receptor and a computer instead of a film cassette.
Preliminary results from a large, clinical trial of digital vs. film mammography show no difference in detecting breast cancer for the general population of women in the trial. However, those women with dense breasts, who are pre- or perimenopausal (women who had a last menstrual period within 12 months of their mammograms), or who are younger than age 50 may benefit from having a digital rather than a film mammogram. The results were reported September 16, 2005 in a special online publication of the New England Journal of Medicine* and at a meeting of the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) in Pentagon City, Va.
Digital Mammography offers shorter examination times and significantly improved patient comfort and convenience since the time the patient must remain still is much shorter. With digital spot-view mammography, images are acquired digitally and displayed immediately on the system monitor.
Digital mammography offers several advantages over conventional film mammography, including:
- Higher detection rate of breast cancer in:
- Women under 50
- Pre & peri-menopausal women
- Women with dense breast tissue
- Reduced need for extra pictures
- Shorter wait time for results
- Less Radiation
- Safer on Patients with Breast Implants.
How Can I Prepare For My Digital Mammogram?
- To help minimize discomfort during mammography, schedule your mammogram to take place one week after your period (when breasts are less tender).
- If possible, bring your previous mammogram with you, or bring a list of where and when you have had previous mammograms with you to your appointment.
- On the day of the examination, do not wear talcum powder, deodorant, lotion or perfume under your arms or on your breasts. These substances can cause artifacts on your mammogram making the images harder to interpret (aluminum flecks in some powders and deodorants can mimic microcalcifications on the x-ray image).
- Wear a two piece outfit so that you only have to remove your top and bra for the examination: a blouse which buttons in the front is optimal since it can be easily removed, while pullover tops are less convenient.
- Any breast symptoms or problems that a woman is experiencing should be described to the technologist performing the examination. A woman should also be prepared to discuss with the mammography technologist any pertinent history: prior surgeries, hormone use, family or personal history of breast cancer. Prior to mammography a woman should also discuss any new findings or problems in her breasts with her clinician.
What A Person Experiences, What to Expect During Mammography
- Patient preparation involves removing any articles of clothing or jewelry that might interfere with the creation of the x-ray image (see above ” Preparations for Mammogram” list for more information).
- During mammography, a technologist will position the patient and image the breast. The breast is first placed on a special cassette and gently compressed with a paddle (often made of clear Plexiglas or other plastic). This flattens the breast so that the maximum amount of tissue can be imaged and examined. Breast compression may cause some discomfort, but only lasts for a brief time during the mammography procedure .
- The technologist will step behind a special shielded glass or may leave the room during x-ray exposure. The patient is asked to hold their breath and remain perfectly still for a few moments while the technologist makes the x-ray picture.
- After all of the necessary views are taken, the technologist will ask you to get dressed and wait while the x-ray images are reviewed.
- After the films are reviewed, the patient will be released from the imaging department or center. In some cases, more images will need to be taken.
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