A mammogram is a low dose x-ray of the breast performed on specialized equipment. Compression is necessary to present uniform tissue thickness and to hold the breasts securely for the few seconds to takes to expose the image. Compression also reduces the dosage of radiation needed to create the image. Mammograms may be performed for screening purposes or as diagnostic studies.
Does a mammogram find all breast cancers?
Unfortunately not. There currently is no 100% effective method for detecting breast cancer. Many cancers are too small or too soft to be felt but they can be seen on a mammogram. Some types of cancers can be felt more easily than they can be seen on a mammogram. In fact 10-15% of breast cancers cannot be seen on a standard mammogram. Therefore your best protection against breast cancer is to use every detection method available. Use of breast self examination, your doctors breast examination and your annual screening mammogram provides a good standard basis for basic breast health evaluation. Routine use of all three methods is essential.
What are the benefits of a mammogram?
Multiple large scientific studies conducted around the world have shown a regular screening exam with mammography reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer for women age 40 and older. Mammography's greatest benefit is the fact that it allows most breast cancers to be detected before they can be felt. Earlier detection allows for earlier, and more effective treatment.
What is the benefit of digital mammography?
Digital mammography is a method of recording the mammographic image in an electronic format that is stored on computer systems. The picture archiving or PACS systems are backed up by duplicate storage of the information contained in a separate location. An examination can no longer be easily lost or destroyed . The films are then available and accessible to any health care provider around the world by electronic transfer technology. In addition, once obtained, the image can be electronically manipulated to enhance the quality of the image and the information displayed. Since the image data is contained in a digital format it can be analyzed with computer-aided detection, CAD, software to assist in the detection of subtle abnormalities that may be associated with breast cancer. Other advantages include virtually instant availability of the obtained image for assessment of quality and completeness of examination. There are fewer recalls for repeat examinations. An important recent large-scale study indicates that women with dense breast tissue may receive additional diagnostic benefit from digital mammography.
Are there limitations to mammography?
Yes. Beyond the 10-15% of breast cancers that cannot be detected by mammography, many tumors in their earliest stages are difficult to distinguish from normal, non cancerous tissues. In these cases, the breast radiologist will perform further mammographic studies, diagnostic ultrasound, and even biopsy of suspicious areas in an effort to make a clear and definitive diagnosis.
Is a mammography examination painful?
In most women a mammogram is non painful, merely uncomfortable. The discomfort lasts only for the brief time that their breasts are compressed. Try to schedule your mammogram at a time other than during your menstrual period, because your breasts may be more tender or sensitive at that time. If you are particularly sensitive to the breast compression device you might consider taking over-the-counter pain relief medication one hour prior to your scheduled examination.
What information is needed to perform mammographic examination?
Please have the following information handy when you schedule your visit:
Family history of breast cancer
If you are currently taking any hormones, or have previously taken hormones
If you have breast implants
If this is your first visit to our facility, and you have had a previous mammogram, we will need to obtain copies of your prior films. Please tell us where your prior mammograms were performed so that we can acquire them for review.
1380 Lusitana Street, Suite 200, Honolulu, HI 96813