Mammography

Mammography

Via Radiology provides mammography services at the Seattle Breast Center, utilizing the state-of-the-art technology including digital mammography, digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), and Computer-Aided Detection (CAD). These tools improve detection of breast cancer and reduce the chance of callbacks (for further imaging), false positives, and the need for biopsy. Weekly multidisciplinary meetings between the Via radiologist and clinicians including surgeons and oncologists further improve the care we provide.

There are two types of mammograms we perform:

Screening Mammogram

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When should I have a screening mammogram?

We at the Seattle Breast Center, along with the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology, recommend annual screening mammography starting at age 40. If you are high risk for breast cancer (if your mother or sister had breast cancer before the age of 50), then we recommend beginning screening 10 years before the age at which your mother or sister was diagnosed. For instance, if mom found out she had breast cancer at age 45, we would recommend starting screening at age 35.

How is mammography performed?

A screening mammogram consists of two views of each breast. In order to see through the breast tissues, it must be compressed. Our technologists are very experienced in positioning the breast as gently as possible, and the compression lasts only seconds while the mammogram is obtained, and the compression is released. It takes an average of about 10 minutes to take the four views. The technologist will then check the films to make sure they are of good quality. After that you are free to leave.

How is my mammogram read and who reads it?

When the technologist has finished your exam, the mammograms are placed through a computer-assisted detection system or CAD. The images are digitized and run through the CAD system and displayed for the radiologist to interpret.

All our radiologists are specialists in Breast Imaging who read a large volume of mammograms, perform all breast interventional procedures and participate in the Northwest Hospital Breast Multidisciplinary Team. We do not read your screening mammogram right when you are there. Why? Because we know that the best way to detect breast cancer is to read screening mammograms at a quiet time, with no interruptions when we are fresh and maximally alert. We read these studies in batches with the aid of the CAD software. Because of this, we have the best chance of finding a cancer if there is one there.

How much radiation is involved?

Mammography uses radiation to form images of the breast. The dose is extremely low, much lower than any other X-ray exam or CT scan. The amount of radiation from a mammogram is comparable to the amount you would receive on a cross-country flight.

What should I wear?

You will be asked to undress from the waist up for the exam. We provide robes to cover up. Any comfortable clothing is appropriate.

What preparation is needed?

We ask that you do not apply deodorant the morning of your mammogram, or that you wash this off thoroughly prior to your appointment. The flecks of deodorant can show up on the films and be confused for abnormalities.

How long will it take?

The exam should take less than 15 minutes.

What is a Call-Back?

In about 10% of cases, a question arises as a result of the screening mammogram. This does not mean that you have breast cancer. Most of these turn out to be entirely normal. But whenever there is a question, we will “Call Back” the patient for more views, and possibly an ultrasound. If this happens we will call you to arrange an appointment. We also send a letter to your home so that we will be sure to contact you.

When will I get results?

We read screening mammograms within 24 hours of your appointment. We send a letter to your home and to your doctor as soon as possible, always within three days of your appointment. If there is any finding on the films, we will call you immediately in addition to sending you a letter.

What if I have had mammograms at another facility in the past?

We would very much like to see your old films to compare with your current mammogram at the Seattle Breast Center. This is very helpful in showing the pattern of breast tissue has not changed over time. It would be best if this can be arranged before your appointment so that you can bring the old films in yourself, but we would be happy to facilitate the process at the time of your exam.

 

Diagnostic Mammogram

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How is a Diagnostic Mammogram different from Screening?

Diagnostic mammograms are specialized mammograms designed to solve a particular problem. The radiologist designs each exam in order to answer the particular question at hand.

What are reasons for having a Diagnostic Mammogram?

The following are reasons why you may have a diagnostic mammogram:

  • Question arising from a screening mammogram
  • Breast symptom such as a lump, focal breast pain or nipple discharge
  • Follow-up exams
  • Personal history of breast cancer
What is a "spot compression magnification" view?

In addition to the four views obtained in a screening mammogram, there are many specialized views that are possible to further investigate a finding. The most common view is called a “spot compression magnification” view. This is a magnified view of a particular area of the breast. The radiologist may also want to do an ultrasound.

 

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