Digital mammography (sometimes referred to as full-field digital mammography) is one of the most recent advances in x-ray mammography. It is redefining the way women's healthcare is delivered and provides a new option in breast health.
Similar to standard mammography, x-rays are used to produce an image of the breast. The key role of digital mammography is to identify breast cancer in its development when it Is very small. This is often a year or two before it is large enough to be felt by your healthcare provider.
Mammography detects about 2-3 times as many early breast cancers as a physical examination. The differences between standard and digital mammography are the way the images are recorded, viewed by the radiologist, and stored. Standard mammogram images are recorded on large x-ray films. Digital mammography images are captured electronically and viewable on a computer screen within 8-10 seconds. They are stored on the computer and therefore their magnification, brightness, darkness or contrast can be "enhanced" after the mammogram is complete to help the doctor more clearly see certain areas. Because the images can be adjusted by the radiologist, subtle differences between tissues may be noted. Many times the difference between digital mammography and standard mammography are compared to the differences between a digital camera and a camera using regular film.
Who should get a mammogram?
Eventually, all women should get a mammogram. The American Cancer Society offers the following guidelines to women who are symptom-free:
- Women 20 and older should perform breast self-examinations every month.Women 20 to 39 should have a physical breast examination every three years, and women 40 and older should have one every year.
- Women 40 and older should have a mammogram every year, or more often for women at increased risk.
- Women with personal or family histories of breast cancer should consult their doctors about the need for more frequent or earlier mammography.
Why should I get a mammogram?
Studies have shown that mammography saves lives. The purpose of mammogram screenings is to find issues before they are problems. Ignoring the risk of breast cancer does not diminish it. The difference in quality and quantity of life in women whose cancers are detected before they cause symptoms, and those that aren't, is reason enough to have a mammogram. Mammography, combined with physical examination, could reduce the breast cancer mortality rate by over 20-30 percent. But it is important to discuss your treatment with your doctor, understand their recommendations completely, and then act on them.
When should I get a mammogram?
The facts are that the risk of breast cancer increases with age, So the older you get, the more chance you have of developing breast cancer. Unfortunately, the incidence of breast cancer is also increasing in younger women. That is why screening should begin at age 40, or earlier for women at increased risk.
The first mammogram serves as a baseline or as a "comparison." The purpose of regular mammograms is to make sure that everything stays the same and that nothing new develops. This is one of the ways to find those tiny cancers that are too small to be felt.
How safe are they?
Mammography has been used on millions of women for over 25 years. Like all X-rays, it involves limited exposure to radiation; but the amount required is small. Because of advances in all areas of mammography, the radiation dose has been dramatically reduced.
I have breast implants. Can I still get a mammogram?
Yes, with specialized techniques, most women with implants can have an excellent mammogram. Because of the additional views necessary in women with implants, these women should expect to have twice as many pictures taken of each breast. They should not be excluded from screening because of the implants. If you have implants, check with the technologists to be sure they are aware of the specialized techniques. Otherwise the exam may be inadequate. Also, advise the clinic that you have breast implants at the time of your booking, so extra time can be allowed for your examination.
Alpena Regional Medical Center is accredited in mammography by the American College of Radiology (ACR)
ARMC voluntarily went through the review process to ensure that our mammography department meets nationally-accepted standards of care for our patients. ARMC’s radiologist and mammography technicians are well qualified, through education and certification, to perform medical imaging and interpret your images. The equipment is also tested to assure we meet or exceeds quality assurance and safety guidelines.
The ACR gold seal, assures that the prescribed imaging test done at ARMC has met the highest level of imaging quality and radiation safety. The facility and its personnel have gone through a comprehensive review to earn accreditation status by the ACR, the largest and oldest imaging accrediting body in the U.S. and a professional organization of 34,000 physicians.