Mammography is a well-established screening tool that is used to evaluate breast tissue for the possible presence of cancer.
It is a specific type of imaging system that uses a low-dose of X-Rays to examine breast tissue.
At SCP all mammograms are performed by qualified Mammographers.
A mammography exam, called a mammogram, is an excellent method to reveal changes in breast tissue that may have gone undetected during breast self-examination by the patient or doctor.
The main aim of a mammogram is to detect cancer in its early stages for excellent prognosis.
A routine Mammogram should be done once a year from the age of 40.
Patients that have a strong family history (grandmother, mother, sister) should start yearly screenings at the age of 36 (this should however be discussed with your doctor).
A Mammogram examination will include four images, two of each breast and a Breast Ultrasound if necessary.
A Breast Ultrasound and a Mammogram complement each other. They are two different imaging modalities.
Mammography will always remain the gold standard for imaging the breast.
Abnormalities revealed on a Mammogram are either benign or malignant, but finding the cancerous lesion in an early stage before it grows, increases the chances of successful treatment.
Micro and macro-calcifications, masses, cyst, skin thickening and tissue distribution can be seen on a Mammogram.
Masses and cysts can be seen on Ultrasound with the advantage of evaluating them according to shape, size and blood flow. Calcifications are not always seen on Ultrasound therefore a Mammogram and Ultrasound must be performed on patients with dense breast tissue.
This technology has been proven to save lives through the early detection of breast cancer.
SCP Digital Mammography Units, use X-Rays and breast compression. The X-Rays are turned into electric signals that can then be stored electronically. This is similar to the way digital cameras take and store pictures.
True 3D Breast Tomosynthesis delivers high-quality images of thin slices of breast tissue for a more reliable and accurate diagnosis, regardless of breast size or tissue density (available at Panorama and Durbanville).
All SCP branches offer diagnostic mammography which means that all Mammograms and Breast Ultrasounds are interpreted by an onsite Radiologist and results are made available by means of a report.
From the patient’s point of view, digital mammography is essentially the same as the screen-film system.
Before your Mammogram
It is best to make a booking for your Mammogram at the branch of your choice.
Be at the rooms at least 15 minutes prior to the time of your appointment.
Always bring your previous Mammogram CD’s or films along and hand them over to the Mammographer who will perform the examination.
Do not wear deodorant, lotion or talcum powder on breasts or under the arms on the day of the examination (they may cause artefacts that may interfere with the interpretation of the examination).
The Mammographer will ask you for a short history prior to the examination.
You may be requested to remove some or all jewellery prior to the examination and will be handed a key to lock them in a locker in your cubicle.
As you will be requested to undress from the waist up, wear an easy removable top with your skirt or pants. You will be given a top or gown to wear prior to the examination.
During the examination this will also have to be removed since it may cause artefacts on the films.
There is no special preparation for a mammogram examination
It is important to be calm and relaxed during the examination to help with positioning the breast and achieve excellent image quality.
Let the Mammographer know
You should inform the Radiographer or doctor if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.
Inform the Mammographer performing the examination of any breast symptoms or problems and supply her with any relevant information from your past medical history.
Inform the Mammographer of prior surgery and breast implants.
What to expect
A Mammogram can be performed standing or sitting in front of the Mammogram Unit
Your breasts will be positioned in the Mammogram Unit by a trained Radiographer, called a Mammographer.
A minimum of two examinations will be performed on each breast.
Images will be done from the top and from the side of each breast.
During the examination each breast will be compressed and flattened between a detector/image receptor and a clear Perspex/plastic compression plate two clear Plexiglas or plastic panels.
Once the breast is compressed the Mammographer will stand behind the control panel and press the exposure button.
Some patients will experience the study as uncomfortable and a few experience it as painful. Mostly patients will experience it as only a minor discomfort.
After the examination is completed you may be requested to wait in your cubicle or in an Ultrasound room while the doctor interprets the films.
Further views of the breasts may be required or an Ultrasound examination may be performed as an additional evaluation.
For best results
The breasts should be compressed and flattened as much as possible in order to allow for all breast tissue to be visualised and to allow the use of the lowest possible X-Ray dose. It is therefore important to give your full co-operation during the examination.
After your Mammogram
If you experienced discomfort during the examination, your breasts may be tender for a short while after the examination.
You can however continue with your daily routine as usual as there are no side-effects to this examination.
It is very important that you inform your doctor of any major discomfort or side-effects.
The report will usually be available within an hour and a half to two hours, after completion of the examination.
If further evaluation is needed, your referring doctor will inform you accordingly.
How long will it take?
A mammogram examination takes 15 minutes, which includes four images of the breast and an Ultrasound breast scan if necessary.
You should however be prepared for a maximum examination time of 30 minutes as there will be an onsite Radiologist interpreting the images and extra time needs to be allowed for any additional images that may be requested by the Radiologist.
The breast is compressed for less than 1 minute for each image taken.
If you usually experience breast tenderness in the week prior to menstruation, it is best not to book your Mammogram during that week.
Examine your own breasts regularly and immediately report any abnormality you detect to your doctor.
Always bring your previous examinations along for comparison purposes.
Try to remain calm and relaxed during the examination.