With digital mammography, you have the advantage of earlier detection through sharper, clearer images. The images are captured in the same way, but what your doctor can do with the images is what sets it apart. Digital mammography transfers the images to a computer, where areas can be enhanced or enlarged for detecting even the smallest abnormalities.
Digital mammography -- also called full-field digital mammography (FFDM) -- is a system that converts X-rays into electrical signals, similar to the way a digital camera works. 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. A radiologist views the digital images on a computer screen.
The Advantages of Digital Mammography Include:
- The test usually takes half the time of traditional film-based exams
- Technologists can respond immediately to positioning or exposure issues so the image won't need to be retaken
- The image can be easily shared with another health care provider when a second opinion is needed
- Digital mammography is better for women with dense breast tissue, women who are under 50 or who are pre-menopausal
Computer-Aided Detection (CAD)
Parkland Health Center uses a computer-aided detection system to perform a review of all mammograms. Studies report that computer-aided detection systems can result in earlier detection of up to 23 percent of the cancers currently detected with screening mammography.
The radiologist reviews the mammogram first then activates the monitor to see if the system has highlighted an area for further analysis. The computer software searches for abnormal areas of density, mass or calcification that may indicate the presence of cancer. If an image is marked, the radiologist goes back to the original mammogram to review the area in more detail.
Why You Should Get a Mammogram
A mammogram is a special type of X-ray of the breasts and is the best tool to fight breast cancer. Mammograms can show tumors long before you can feel them, at a time when breast cancer is at its most curable stage.
There are Two Ways Mammograms are Used:
- Screening mammograms are done on a regular basis, compared to your previous mammogram, and used to check for potential abnormalities; if anything suspicious is found, a diagnostic mammogram is ordered
- Diagnostic mammograms are done when you or your doctor detect a suspicious lump or other problem; diagnostic mammography may also be done after an abnormal screening mammography to evaluate the area of concern on the screening exam
Making an Appointment
In many cases, we provide same-day or next-day appointments for mammograms. Call 573.760.8460.
If this is the first time having a mammogram at a BJC hospital, bring your prior films to your appointment so that we can look for any changes.
Preparing for Your Test
The mammography suite at Parkland Health Center is designed with your comfort, safety and confidentiality in mind. There is a private dressing and waiting room. You will change into a cape to wear for your exam.
Don't wear deodorant, cream or powder under your arms when you get a mammogram, as they can interfere with the quality of the mammogram. Items are provided for deodorant removal in the dressing rooms.
What the Procedure Will be Like
For your convenience, we suggest wearing a two-piece outfit for your screening, since you will only have to undress from the waist up. After changing into a gown, you will wait in a private waiting room. You will be called when it is time for your mammogram and taken to a private exam room. There you will stand in front of a special X-ray machine. You will slip one arm out of your gown at a time. The person who takes the X-rays then places your breasts, one at a time, between two plastic plates.
The plates are brought together to flatten your breast for the pictures. This will be uncomfortable, but will only last a short time. Usually, two pictures are taken of each breast -- one from the side and one from above.
The procedure takes about 15 minutes.
Why Breast Compression Is Necessary
Breast compression is necessary to:
- Even out the breast thickness to improve the view of the breast
- Spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities can be seen more easily
- Allow the use of a lower X-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged
- Hold the breast still to avoid blurring of the image
- Reduce X-ray scatter to increase the sharpness of picture
If You Have Breast Implants
Breast implants can hide some breast tissue, which could make if difficult for the radiologist to see breast cancer when looking at your mammograms. When you make an appointment, be sure to mention that you have implants. When you have your mammogram, the technologist might gently lift the breast tissue slightly away from the implant.
When Your Test Is Completed
When your test is finished, you will be taken back to the dressing rooms to change back into your clothes.
Your doctor is the expert when it comes to your health care. He/she knows your complete medical history and can accurately assess your test results once they are available.
What Happens After Your Images Have Been Taken:
- A board-certified physician examines and interprets your test images
- Your physician receives a report within 24-48 hours after your test has been read by the radiologist
- You receive a letter with your results mailed to your home within one to two weeks
- Your doctor reviews your results and discusses them with you at your next scheduled appointment, or sooner if needed
- Sometimes the radiologist may recommend a follow-up ultrasound or MRI to further evaluate the breast
- If you have any questions concerning your images, contact your doctor's office
After having a mammogram, it's common to experience tenderness, pain or mild bruising. These symptoms should start to go away within 24 hours after your exam. If any symptoms persist up to 72 hours after your exam, contact your physician's office.