Mammogram (cont.)

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How is a mammogram performed?

A brief medical history and a history of specific problems related to the breast, such as pain or a palpable lump (one that is felt), is obtained prior to the mammogram. A small X-ray marker may be taped on the breast overlying the palpable lump. This will help in determining whether any other special mammogram views need to be done beyond the standard views. All jewelry and clothing in the chest and breast area are removed prior to the mammogram. The patient's breasts are then placed on a firm flat panel and a gentle, but firm pressure is applied to the breast with another panel, resulting in compression of the breast between the two panels. This compression causes a degree of discomfort that lasts only for a few seconds. The compression of the breast is necessary to obtain quality mammograms and spreads the breast tissue out so that the X-ray image displays the inner breast tissue with good resolution. If compression is not used, the mammograms may be blurry, breast tissue may not be well delineated, and small lesions can be overlooked.

Antiperspirants, deodorants, and powders should not be worn during mammography and should be removed prior to the procedure, as these substances may make interpretation of the results more difficult. Antiperspirants can cause the images to appear foggy, and powders can sometimes simulate the appearance of microcalcifications (an abnormal finding that is sometimes associated with breast cancer).

Generally, two X-rays are obtained of each breast. More views may be obtained if the breasts are large, the woman has had a breast augmentation, or there is an area on the initial mammography views that needs to be further examined. Special magnified or localized mammograms of a specific area of the breast can then be done.

A radiology technologist is responsible for performing mammography. Once the X-ray pictures are taken, they are developed and examined by a radiologist (a doctor who specializes in the interpretation of X-rays and other imaging studies). In most mammography centers, these radiologists have also had extra training dedicated to interpreting mammograms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/26/2015

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