What is a Mammogram?
Mammography is a particular type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system to screen breasts. A mammography exam, called a mammogram, is used in the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer in women.
A mammogram x-ray is a non-invasive test where the breast is exposed to a small dose of ionizing radiation, producing a picture of the inside of the breast.
Who is a Mammogram suitable for?
Mammograms are used as a breast screening tool to discover early breast cancer in women experiencing no breast cancer symptoms, and to detect and diagnose breast cancer in women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge.
Mammogram screening is recommended every year for women, beginning at age 40. Research indicates that annual mammograms lead to early detection of breast cancers, when they are easier to cure. Women who are at increased risk of breast cancer, due to a genetic history, or those who have had breast cancer previously, should discuss their breast screening programme with their breast screening clinic.
How does a Mammogram work?
A mammography unit is a rectangular box which holds the tube that produces the x-rays, and is only used for x-ray exams of the breast. A device is attached to the mammography unit that holds the breast in position so images can be taken at different angles.
X-rays, which are a form of radiation such as light and radio waves, are carefully aimed at the breast, and a small burst of radiation passes through the breast and is recorded as an image.
Soft tissue such as muscle and fat allows more x-rays to pass through them then dense bone does, and as a result the soft breast tissue appears in shades of grey on the image.
What is Digital Mammography?
St Marks Breast Centre now uses New Zealand’s first Philips 3rd Generation Digital mammography screening unit. The use of this more advanced techonology means better detection of early breast cancer, with a lower radiation dosage. It is also particularly good in detection of cancer in younger women (less than 50 years of age), and in women with dense breasts.