What is Digital Mammography?
Digital mammography is considered the best available technology for breast imaging. Digital mammography provides electronic images of the breasts that can be enhanced by computer technology. Digital mammography also allows the opportunity to run a computerized program (CAD) offering a “second set of eyes” to screen for breast cancer that supplements the radiologists’ finding.
Digital mammography also allows the radiologist several computerized tools to magnify, refine, and enhance dense areas of the breast which minimizes the need for additional imaging. Additionally, the digital technology allows for the image to be viewed immediately on a monitor instead of waiting for the technologist to process the film. This significantly decreases exam turnaround time.
Digital mammography still utilizes compression like the traditional analog machine but does have some inherent patient comforting techniques such as curved paddles and a hinged paddle that allows for more even compression from the nipple to the chest area.
What to Expect During Your Exam
Once you arrive at the Women’s Imaging Center, you will be asked to fill out a short breast history questionnaire. A staff member will escort you to the private waiting room, where you will find a private changing room to change into a gown.
Once inside the mammography suite the technologist will review your questionnaire and explain the exam to you. She may ask for additional information based on the answers to your initial questionnaire. Please be sure to let the technologist know if you are experiencing any breast pain, lumps or discharge.
During the exam, you will be positioned at the mammography unit, seated, standing or lying down. The breast will be positioned between two plates of the mammography unit, and pressure applied to compress the tissue. This may produce temporary discomfort but it is necessary to spread out the structures within the breast for optimal visualization, minimized motion on the image, and to decrease the amount of radiation needed.
You will be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds while the x-rays are taken. The technologist will step behind a protective window, and the digital image will be taken. Each breast may be x-rayed at least two times, once from above and once from the side. Additional films may be obtained if necessary.
She will review the images and make sure they meet, or exceed, the information required by the Mammography Quality Standards Acts and the FDA.
If further consultation is advised before you leave, a separate, private consultation room is available adjacent to the mammography suite.
After the Test
Once the technologist has completed all technical steps necessary to interpret your scan, it will be sent to the radiologist for interpretation. Following radiologist dictation, a report will be prepared and sent to your physician. The post-exam steps usually take 2-3 business days.
Your physician does have several options at his or her disposal to obtain immediate results for critical or emergency clinical situations.