What is a Mammogram (Full-field Digital Mammography FFDM with CAD)?
A Mammography exam, also called a mammogram, uses low-dose X-rays to capture internal pictures of breasts. Mammography is the most effective (though not perfect) medical imaging procedure for the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women.
Digital mammography, also called Full-field Digital Mammography (FFDM), replaces x-ray film with solid-state detectors that convert the x-ray images into electrical signals that are translated onto a computer screen fore viewing or can be printed on special film similar to conventional mammograms. Digital mammography allows radiologists to alter the captured images for greater viewing clarity and convenient information sharing with a patient’s physician. The mammography unit is designed to accommodate virtually any size breast, large or small.
Computer-aided detection (CAD) can be applied to digital mammography exams to help radiologists identify and mark regions of interest in the breast that may be indicative of cancer. The computer software exams these regions searches for abnormal areas of density, mass, or calcification that may indicate the presence of cancer and highlights these areas on the images, alerting radiologists to the need for further analysis.
Screening mammograms aim to find cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign) tumors and cysts in women without breast cancer symptoms up to two years before they can be felt. A diagnostic mammogram is used to further evaluate a patient who has abnormal clinical findings like pain, a lump or dimpled skin on the breast, or nipple discharge and may be performed after an abnormal screening mammogram to evaluate the area of concern.
Common uses of mammography:
- As a screening for early detection of breast cancer when no symptoms are present
- Detection and diagnosis of breast disease when symptoms such as a lump, skin dimpling, pain or nipple discharge are present
- To detect ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), abnormal cells in the lining of a breast duct
Mammogram radiation safety and risks
State-of-the-art Mammography systems have tightly controlled X-ray beams with significant filtration and dose control precision to minimize secondary (scatter) radiation. This ensures those parts of a patient’s body not being imaged receive minimal radiation exposure.
If you are coming in because of a breast problem and you are or may be pregnant, inform your HDI Mammography Technologist so that we can decide the best way to evaluate your situation and take necessary precautions. Although there is no radiation that reaches the uterus during a mammogram, it’s preferred not to perform routine mammograms on women who might be pregnant.
While mammography is the best screening tool for breast cancer available today, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. This is called a false negative result. When a mammogram looks abnormal and no cancer is present, this is called a false-positive result.
A false-positive mammogram is any exam result that requires additional screening. Sometimes false positives are due to initial images not being clear enough, requiring another exam to acquire more pictures. Five percent to 15 percent of screening mammograms require more testing. If there is an abnormal finding, a follow-up or biopsy may be performed. Most retests and biopsies confirm that no cancer was present. It is estimated that a woman who has yearly mammograms between ages 40 and 49 has about a 30 percent chance of having a false-positive mammogram and a 7-8 percent chance of having a breast biopsy within a 10-year period.
Learn about common mammogram myths associated with breast cancer risk.
To learn more about effective X-ray radiation doses, visit radiologyinfo.org.