A mammogram is an X-ray of the breasts using specialist dedicated equipment which only requires a very low dose of x-rays to produce images of the breasts.
Research has found that mammography is the most efficient tool in the early detection of breast cancer.
A Siemens Digital Mammography unit was installed at Ashford in July 2008. This equipment reduces the X-ray dose, and produces mammograms which are clearer and easier to read resulting in more accurate images. Using digital technology, the images are available within seconds, therefore reducing the length of time that the examination takes.
When you arrive for your Mammogram, you will be asked to change in to a gown; the radiographer will then take you in to the room, and ask you some questions before performing the examination.
To obtain images of the highest quality, the breast tissue has to be compressed between 2 plates; this is for a few seconds only. This procedure is initially done in two different positions, but further views of a specific area of the breast tissue may be required.
Before you leave, the radiographer will check that the images show all of the breast tissue clearly. The results of your mammogram will be given to you at your next appointment in the Breast Clinic.
If you have had mammograms elsewhere, please bring them with you to your appointment.
Ultrasound (US) imaging of the breast produces an image of the internal structures of the breast. It is often used in the evaluation of lumps, nipple discharge, and breast pain. It is also used to characterize potential abnormalities seen on mammography.
Ultrasound can be used to determine if a lump is solid or fluid filled (cystic).
Breast ultrasound is performed by a radiologist (an x-ray doctor)
- You will be asked to remove your clothing above the waist and put on a gown prior to the examination.
- You will be asked to remove the gown when you enter the ultrasound room.
- You will lie on your back on the examination table with your arm raised above your head.
- A clear water-based gel is applied to the breast to allow the transducer to make secure contact with the skin.
- The radiologist then presses the transducer firmly against the skin and sweeps it over the area of interest. The radiologist routinely takes still images of the breast during the procedure.
- You may be asked to change positions during the examination.
- Once the imaging is complete you will be asked to wipe off the gel from your skin.
The examination is usually completed in 10 – 15 minutes.
After the procedure you will be able to resume your normal activities.
The radiologist will usually discuss the result of the ultrasound with you at the end of the procedure. He/she will then send a typed report to your referring doctor.
Ultrasound guided procedures
When an ultrasound examination cannot characterize the nature of a breast abnormality the radiologist may choose to perform an ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration (FNA) or an ultrasound guided core biopsy
Both FNA and core biopsy are performed on an outpatient basis and may be performed at the time of the initial ultrasound or booked for a separate appointment.
If you are attending for a biopsy please inform your referring doctor and the radiologist if you are taking blood thinning medication (such as warfarin) as this may need to be stopped prior to the procedure.
Ultrasound imaging uses high frequency sound waves to produce a picture of the internal structures of the breast. A small handheld probe is pressed gently against the skin surface. It both generates inaudible sound waves and detects any echoes reflected back off the surfaces and tissue boundaries within the breast. From these reflected sound waves the computer generates a real time picture which is displayed on the monitor.
The probe is moved across the skin to view the breast from different angles.
Breast ultrasound is used to help clarify breast abnormalities felt by a doctor during a physical examination and to characterize potential abnormalities identified on mammography.
Ultrasound is particularly good at determining if a lump is solid (which may be a non-cancerous lump or a cancerous tumour) or fluid-filled (such as a benign cyst). Ultrasound is also used to guide aspiration or biopsy of a lump.
A mammogram is the name for an x-ray carried out on the breast. The mammogram is produced by exposure to a controlled source of x-rays and shows the internal structure of the breast. The images produced may be recorded either on special photographic film or kept in digital form on computer and viewed on a screen.
Mammograms are used as a screening tool to detect early breast cancer in patients experiencing no symptoms and to diagnose breast disease in patients with symptoms such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge.
Fine needle aspiration uses a very small needle to extract fluid or cells from an abnormal area in the breast. The sample is then examined under a microscope so that a diagnosis can be made.
FNA may be used to assess an abnormality felt during physical examination or to evaluate an abnormality seen during an ultrasound scan.
Ultrasound is often used to guide the FNA to ensure that the correct area has been sampled.
A core biopsy removes a piece of breast tissue for analysis. It is performed using an automatic spring loaded biopsy needle. The needle is attached to a small disposable device or ‘gun’ which quickly fires the needle into the breast and takes a narrow tubular core of tissue from it.
Core biopsy of the breast may be used to characterize a lump felt on clinical examination, or abnormalities seen on mammography or breast ultrasound.