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Digital Screening Mammography

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.

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.

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.

Screening Mammography
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 can I prepare for my upcoming exam?
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 one week following your period. 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.

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RadiologyInfo.org (www.radiologyinfo.org) - Current and accurate patient information about diagnostic radiology procedures, interventional radiology and radiation therapy.