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Diagnostic Evaluations

Mammography

Mammography captures sharp, digital images of the breasts. Once the digital images are obtained and transmitted to a high-tech, digital mammography machine, our radiologists analyze the images to determine the precise location and extent of the disease.

A mammography is an X-ray exam that may also identify breast changes and locate tumors that are too small or too deep to be detected with a breast examination. For women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain, skin dimpling or nipple discharge, a mammogram may determine whether the side effects are a result of cancer or another condition.

Mammography is an important tool in the early detection of breast cancers because it may show changes in the breast months or years before a patient is able to feel them. Current guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American College of Radiology recommend mammography screening every year for women, beginning at the age of 40.

The mammography unit is designed to accommodate virtually any size breast, large or small. During a mammogram, the breasts are compressed, one at a time, between two firm surfaces that flatten the breast tissue for easier imaging. Some patients may experience mild discomfort depending on the sensitivity of their breasts, but the pressure lasts only a few seconds. Multiple images of the breast are taken with X-ray technology, and the images are displayed on a computer screen and examined for signs of cancer.

If an abnormality is detected, it may or may not require treatment. Your doctor may recommend further tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI. If the radiologist believes the abnormality needs further study, a biopsy may be performed to determine whether the mass is cancerous.

Some types of mammography include:

Computer-aided detection (CAD) for mammography

CAD for mammography is used to interpret mammographic images and check for the presence of breast cancer. The CAD system puts a mammogram into digital form and then computer software searches for abnormal areas of density, mass or calcification. The system highlights suspicious areas, alerting doctors to the need for further analysis.

The CAD system may improve the detection of cancer in the breast by acting as a second set of eyes to find abnormal areas on a mammogram.

Digital breast tomosynthesis

Digital breast tomosynthesis creates a 3-D picture of the breast. Tomosynthesis is similar to a standard mammogram in that it uses X-ray technology and applies the same amount of pressure to the breast. But rather than providing two views—from top to bottom and side to side—the 3-D approach captures multiple views from a variety of angles in seconds.

During the procedure, an X-ray tube moves in an arc around the breast, capturing nine images that are used to create a detailed, layer-by-layer view of the tissue. This cross-sectional perspective helps to expose a wider, deeper view of the breast.

Images are sent to a computer to create a clear, highly focused 3-D image. Tomosynthesis may be used along with traditional digital mammography as part of your annual mammogram. The technology is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a screening tool for breast cancer, but it is not yet considered standard of care.

Full-field digital mammography

This mammography unit captures an electronic picture of the breast in digital format. Once they are transmitted to a high-tech, digital mammography workstation, the images are used to determine the precise location and extent of the disease. Because the images appear on a computer screen, doctors can adjust the image size, brightness and contrast to see certain areas more clearly.