Radiology professionals are your first line of protection against breast cancer. Having a digital mammogram, a service provided by these doctors, is one of the best ways to detect early-stage breast cancer. Trials show that early detection and treatment provide the highest rates of survival for those at risk of this condition. Keeping that in mind, most women should have regular screenings to locate potential risks. Understanding what will happen during this type of procedure can help ease your mind. The procedure is non-invasive, fast, and very accurate.
What Is Digital Mammography?
As a form of radiology, mammography has long been the gold standard in detection. In some medical centers, analog mammograms remain common. However, for more detailed and in-depth images, digital mammography tends to be the better option. In analog models, pictures are taken and then printed for doctors to view. In digital formats, the radiologist is able to see the image in real time and even manipulate the images so that any potential abnormality present is easily seen.
One instance in which this is particularly helpful is in women who have dense fibrocystic breast tissue. In this these women, the tissue is very difficult to accurately monitor. The breasts look white in a traditional mammogram, which makes it very easy for potential tumors to “hide” in the tissue since the tumors themselves are also white. However, in digital forms, the radiologist is able to manipulate the images more effectively and use contrast to make the tumors lighter or darker, making them easier to detect.
What You Can Expect
In nearly all situations, you’ll arrive at the radiologist for an outpatient screening. During the process, the technician will compress the breast between two plates. The bottom plate is an x-ray plate and the top is a plastic, adjustable plate. Once compressed, the plate takes an image of the breast tissue. Some women may experience minor pain or discomfort during this process. If this occurs, talk to the technologists about it right away. In some cases, repositioning the breast will reduce the pain, and in any case, the process only takes a few seconds.
Once complete, the procedure produces a black and white image. Digital mammography results are often sent to the radiology department right away for analysis. The technician isn’t likely to provide any information about the images, as this is often left for the radiologist or your doctor to do.
For those who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, especially those who have a family history of it, this type of screening should occur every year. Digital methods are more effective at spotting potential tumors in women under the age of 50 but are often recommended for all women at risk. Since early detection is a vital component to successful treatments, having these tests done as often as possible can give you peace of mind.