Emory Decatur Hospital offers these answers to common questions about mammograms, based on information from the American Cancer Society.
The special type of x-ray machine used for the breasts produces lower energy x-rays. These x-rays do not go through tissue as easily as that used for routine chest x-rays or x-rays of the arms or legs, but this improves the contrast of the image. Modern mammograms also expose the breast to much lower doses of radiation compared to devices used in the past.
When you have a mammogram, your breast is compressed or squeezed between an x-ray plate and a plastic plate. Both plates are attached to the mammogram machine. Your breast needs to be compressed to spread the tissue apart. This ensures that there will be very little movement, that the image will be sharper and that the exam can be done with a lower x-ray dose.
Although the compression can be uncomfortable and even painful for some women, it only lasts for a few seconds and is needed to produce a good mammogram image.
The entire procedure for your actual mammogram takes about 20 minutes. Keep in mind, though, that your appointment may last longer when you consider the time to register, wait for the technician and speak to the radiologist, if needed.
At Emory Decatur Hospital, your mammogram will be reviewed by a board-certified radiologist. A Computer Aided Detection system (CAD) also is utilized in the reading of mammograms. CAD is designed to improve the process of mammography by detecting very subtle changes in breast tissue that even the best trained eye may miss. It provides a valuable second reading that increases the chance of diagnosing breast cancer in its early stages. During the interpretation of your images, if additional views are necessary, you will be contacted. The radiologist then will make a dictation of your images and fax a report to your referring physician. Your physician will follow up with you to provide details on your results.
Mammograms are offered at the Comprehensive Breast Center at Emory Decatur Hospital as well as at Hillandale Radiology and do not require a physician's order. Routine mammography is offered Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. To schedule a mammogram, call 404.501.SCHD or click here.
Do not wear deodorant, perfume, powders or ointments under the arms or on the breasts on the day of your mammogram. These substances may obscure the images. Remove all jewelry from your neck and chest area. Dress comfortably. If possible, a two piece outfit is best since you will be required to remove your clothing from the waist up.
Schedule your mammogram when your breasts are the least tender. This will allow for optimal compression or squeezing of the breast tissue in the x-ray equipment. The most likely time for this would be the week after the onset of your period.
For more information on mammography please visit the American Cancer Society's Web page.