How is Mammography done?

By  , Expert Content
Oct 04, 2012

Breast cancer is a common type of cancer in women and has become a leading cause of cancer deaths in women. However, early detection of breast cancer by mammography can significantly improve the prognosis and decrease the number of deaths. Mammography is a noninvasive and painless medical test that is helpful for diagnosis of breast diseases, especially breast cancer in early stage.


[Read: When to Undergo Mammography?]


Mammography is usually done as outpatient investigation. Before doing the mammogram your doctor will take a medical history of specific problems related to the breast, such as pain, nipple discharge, palpable lump (one that is felt), and other history  such as previous surgeries, any breast disease, hormone therapy if applicable, any family history of breast cancer and if any mammogram was done previously.


[Read: Purpose of Mammography]


A specially qualified radiologic technologist does the mammography. Avoid using of deodorant, powder or skin lotion of any kind when you go for the mammogram. These cosmetics may contain certain metallic constituents which can appear on the screening as abnormal shadow or spots and cause undue alarm. The breasts are placed on a special platform in the mammography unit. The breasts are then gradually compressed with a paddle made of clear Plexiglas or other plastic.

Breast tissue is compressed so that:

  • the breasts flatten and all the breast tissue is seen better
  • the breast becomes smooth and small abnormalities may be seen on the image and are not obscured by overlying breast tissue.
  • a smaller dose of x-ray may be used as a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged
  • the breasts are held still and the blurring of image due to motion is minimised
  • scattering of x-ray is reduced and the sharpness of picture is improved.

The technician will ask you to change position to take images from different sides. The most common images that are taken include a top-to-bottom view and an angled side view. Images of both the breast are taken one after the other.


[Read: What is Mammography?]


You will be advised to remove your jewellery and clothing in the chest and breast area, remain very still and may be hold the breath for a few seconds when the x-ray picture is taken. This is done to reduce the possibility of a blurred image due to motion. The technologist will leave your side to go behind a wall or go into the next room when the xray is being done. After the images are taken the radiologist may ask you to wait for some time till he determines that all the necessary images have been taken. The examination and the x-ray are usually completed in about 30 minutes.


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