Mammography is a radiographic technique used to detect breast cysts or tumors, especially those not palpable on physical examination. In xeromammography, a specially charged plate records the radiographic images and transfers them to a special paper. Biopsy of suspicious areas may be required to confirm malignancy. Although 90% to 95% of malignant breast tumors can be detected by mammography, this test produces many false positive results. Mammography may follow such screening procedures as ultrasonography or thermography.
Purpose of Mammography
- To screen for malignant breast tumors.
- To investigate breast masses, breast pain, or nipple discharge.
- To differentiate between benign breast disease and malignant tumors.
- To monitor patients with breast cancer who are treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiation.
- Instruct the patient to avoid using underarm deodorant or powder the day of the exam.
- Explain that the test takes about 15 minutes.
- Explain to the patient that she may be asked to wait while the films are checked.
- When scheduling the test, inform the staff if patient has breast implants.
- Make sure the patient has signed an appropriate consent form.
- Note and report all allergies.
- The patient rests one breast on a table above the X-ray cassette.
- The compressor is placed on the breast.
- The patient holds her breath until the X-ray is taken and she’s told to breathe again.
- An X-ray of the cranicaudal view is taken.
- The machine is rotated, and the breast is compressed again.
- An X-ray of the lateral view is taken.
- The procedure is repeated for the other breast.
- The film is developed and checked for quality.
- Answer the patient’s questions about the test.
- Encourage the patient to deep breathe to alleviate fear and anxiety.
- Make the patient feel comfortable after the procedure.
- Prepare to educate the patient about her diagnosis.
- Prepare the patient for further testing or surgery, as indicated.
- The test reveals normal ducts, glandular tissue, and fat architecture.
- No abnormal masses or calcifications are present.
- Irregular, poorly outlined, opaque areas suggest malignant tumors, especially if solitary and unilateral.
- Well-outlined, regular, clear spots may be benign, especially if bilateral.
- Powders, deodorants, or salves on the breast and axilla that may cause false positive results.
- Failure to remove jewelry and clothing (possible false-positive results or poor imaging).
- Glandualr breasts that are common in patients younger than age 30, active lactation and previous breast surgery (possible poor imaging).
- Breast implants (possible hindrance in detecting masses).
- Vasovagal reaction during compression.