What is mammography?

With mammography (also often called mammograms), low-dose radiation is used to take images of the breast. This allows us to detect and diagnose diseases of the breast.

Mammograms are a useful screening tool to detect early-stage breast cancer. Early detection means that treatment can often be started before the cancer has spread outside of the breast.

What is a diagnostic mammogram?

You may need a diagnostic mammogram if you have seen your doctor with a breast symptom such as a lump, or if you are called back after an abnormal screening mammogram. The technologist will focus specialized images to the area of concern in your breast.

Keep in mind that if your mammogram reveals something abnormal, you do not necessarily have cancer. Generally, 85% of the lumps found through a mammogram are benign lumps that do not require treatment.

If your mammogram does identify cancer, this knowledge gives you and your doctor the ability to treat the cancer as soon as possible.

For the latest news from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, please visit www.cbcf.org

What can I expect during the procedure?

As part of the procedure, we must compress the breast for a few seconds. Some women find this uncomfortable. However, the compression does not harm your breast and the discomfort usually goes away immediately after we release the compression.

What is a digital mammogram?

A digital mammogram is obtained without film: detectors are used to convert the x-rays into an electric signal that produces an image that can be viewed directly on a computer. There are many benefits to digital mammography: appointments are shorter as there is no wait for film processing; the radiation dose is slightly reduced; and the images can be manipulated, enhanced and enlarged on a computer screen.

What is a screening mammogram?

Screening mammograms are performed in healthy women with no known breast symptoms and who do not have a history of breast cancer or breast implants. Screening mammograms are recommended for all women in British Columbia over the age of 40 at regular intervals of every one or two years. The technologist will take four standard images. Screening mammograms are available through the Screening Mammography Program of BC. Web site www.bccancer.bc.ca/screening/breast/default.htm