What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a diagnostic tool to help identify breast cancer. A form of X-ray, this test can help visualize the breast tissue to reveal tumors or other abnormalities.
Mammography utilizes a special machine that compresses the breast, spreading the tissue out in such a way that makes it easier to see any areas of concern. A radiologist reads the X-ray films and notes anything that may need to be explored further.
What kinds of mammograms are there?
There are generally two types of mammography, and each has a specific purpose:
- Screening: for those who have no concerning signs or symptoms
- Diagnostic: for when you or your physician have identified concerning signs or symptoms, like skin puckering, lumps, pain, or nipple discharge
If a screening reveals any areas of concern, follow-up diagnostic testing is ordered. Diagnostic mammograms may be paired with a breast ultrasound or other testing.
What abnormalities can a mammogram identify?
Your mammogram can reveal a number of abnormal characteristics about your breast tissue, most of which are not concerning for cancer.
Some findings may be:
- Uneven or dense breast tissue
- Calcium deposits in ducts or fatty tissue
- New dense areas since your last mammogram
- Masses, lumps, or fluid-filled cysts
If any of these findings are concerning for breast cancer, additional testing is ordered. This may include other radiological tests or a biopsy, where a small sample of the area is taken and tested.
What does a mammogram entail?
When you arrive at Cullman Internal Medicine for your digital mammogram, you’re asked to remove your shirt and bra, and put on a gown that opens in the front. You stand at the digital mammography machine and place one breast at a time on a special X-ray plate.
The technician positions your breast to get the best picture possible and then lowers a second plate onto your breast. Your breast is compressed between these two plates for a short period of time while the pictures are taken.
The technician may take multiple angles and performs the same testing on both breasts. Once the testing is done, your physician views your results and lets you know if there is any need for further testing.
If you need a screening or diagnostic mammogram, call the office or book an appointment online with Cullman Internal Medicine today.