What is Mammography?
Mammography is a special type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray machine to examine the breast, demonstrating the tissues, the glands, fat and blood vessels under the skin of the breast.
Who should have a mammogram done?
You should have a mammogram done if you notice any changes in your breasts or if you are 40 years old and above. For many years mammogram has been used to assist your doctor in the diagnosis of breast problems. There are two reasons for having a mammogram - diagnosis and screening.
Diagnosis means evaluating a patient with abnormal findings in the breasts either discovered by yourself or your doctor. Finding a lump or changes in your breast is a worrying experience. The changes may include thickening (any change in breast size or shape), pain in the breast or nipple discharge. Most changes may not be due to cancer but you should see your doctor as soon as possible to arrange the necessary tests.
Screening means looking for possible breast cancer, though you are well. A mammogram can detect tiny changes in your breast which you may not have noticed. These changes may be due to cancer. Early detection and treatment of such cancers offer the best chance for cure. About one in 17 woman will develop breast cancer at some time in her life.
Women with a family history of breast cancer should be aware that this does increase their own risk and that breast screening is particularly important for them. You should discuss with your doctor about the benefits of having a mammogram.
Are there any risks in having a Mammogram?
With modern machinery the amount of radiation delivered to the breast is very low, which is about the same as the average person receives from background radiation in three months. The health risk of having a mammogram is much less than the health risk of smoking one cigarette.
What happens during a Mammography procedure?
During the procedure, our friendly, qualified female radiographer will position you to capture images of your breasts, one at a time. The breast is positioned carefully on a special platform and compressed with a paddle. The breast tissue is flattened as much as possible, in gradation, to allow the best pictures to be taken. Breast compression is necessary in order to:
- Keep the breast still in order to eliminate image blurring due to movement.
- Spread out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be imaged, as such small tissue abnormalities are not obscured by overlying breast tissue.
- Allow the usage of lower x-ray dose (dosage is directly reduced with reduced tissue thickness)
You may feel some discomfort when your breasts are compressed. If discomfort is significant or pain occurs as the compression is increased, do inform the radiographer, so that less compression will be used. The routine views taken are top-to-bottom and side views for each breast. The complete procedure takes only a few minutes. You will be requested to wait after the procedure as the radiographer needs to check the films with our radiologist in case additional views are required.
What can I do to keep my breast healthy?
- Seek advice early if you notice any change in your breast. Don't wait and worry.
- If you are 40 years and above, require your doctor for a mammogram.
- As you age increases, regular mammograms should become part of your usual health checks.
- Have your doctor examined your breast at least once a year.
- Do monthly breast self examination (BSE).
Things to remember
- For your convenience, wear a two-piece outfit, a skirt or slacks and a top.
- Don't apply powder, deodorant or cream on the breasts and armpits as they may show on the film or interfere with the examination.
- Bring along with you all previous mammograms reports.
- If you are, or think that you may be pregnant, inform the x-ray staff prior to the procedure, so that an appointment can be arranged.
- If you have had breast implants, either silicone or saline implants, please inform the radiographer. This is important because the implants are not transparent on x-rays and can block the view of breast tissues. As such cases, special techniques would be used, where the breasts will be carefully compressed to improve the views without rupturing the implants.