A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray examination of the breast tissue. Mammograms are commonly performed to look for breast cancer, but also can detect non-cancerous masses, cysts, calcifications and sometimes breast implant ruptures. Traditional analog mammograms are recorded and stored on X-ray film. With digital mammography, the images are recorded and stored on computerized media. The method of performing the exam and the image quality are identical for analog and digital mammography.

A new, FDA-approved imaging modality available at various Hoag locations is Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT), or 3D Mammography. Recent trials have shown Tomosynthesis to be a more accurate method for detecting early breast cancers in women with radiographically dense breast tissue compared to traditional 2D mammography alone. Tomosynthesis captures 15 digital “projection” images as it arcs over the breast, during a short four-second scan. These images are then digitally reconstructed into a series of high-resolution one millimeter slices that can be reviewed individually or played back in a cine loop. At Hoag, Tomosynthesis does not cost more than a traditional mammogram and requires a prescription from your physician.

Computer-Aided Detection (CAD) is routinely used at Hoag and Newport Imaging Center to further review all screening and most diagnostic mammograms. After a radiologist has viewed your mammogram images, a specially designed CAD computer program scans the images and identifies areas that may require greater scrutiny. This technology, which is like having a second set of eyes review your mammogram, helps your radiologist detect these abnormalities.

Mammography is the most reliable screening method for breast cancer detection available today. The American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology and the American Medical Association recommend an annual mammogram for women who are 40 years of age and older. The combination of regular mammography, an annual physical exam by your personal physician and monthly breast self-examination (BSE) is considered the best way to detect breast cancer early and save women’s lives.

What to Expect

At Hoag, all mammograms are performed by female technologists who have special training and licensing from the state of California. All of our centers are inspected annually by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure that we comply with the regulations of the Mammography Quality Standards Act.

The type of mammogram that your physician orders will depend on your history and any symptoms that you may have.

A screening mammogram is performed on women who have no signs or symptoms of disease. Typically, two images of each breast are taken. Larger-breasted women may require additional images.

A diagnostic mammogram is performed on women or men who have a symptom, such as a lump, pain or a nipple discharge, or a personal history of breast cancer. Diagnostic mammography also is performed when a screening mammogram shows an area that needs a more detailed look. The type and number of views taken will be customized to your situation.

Implant “push-back” views may be added to either type of mammogram, for women who have breast implants. These special views are taken to reveal as much breast tissue as possible by gently maneuvering the implant out of the way.

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