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Mammography

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Mammography of the right breast

Mammography is the process of using low-dose X-rays (usually around 0.7 mSv) to examine the human breast. It is used to look for different types of tumours and cysts. Only mammography has been proven to reduce mortality from breast cancer. In some countries routine (annual to five-yearly) mammography of older women is encouraged as a screening method to diagnose early breast cancer.

At this stage mammography is still the modality of choice for screening of early breast cancer. It is the gold-standard for other imaging methods such as ultrasound, NMR-tomography and CT which are less useful due to their lower spatial resolution.

During the procedure, the breast is compressed by a dedicated mammography machine, in order to even out the tissue, increase image quality, and to hold the breast still (preventing motion blur). Both front and side images of the breast are taken.

Until some years ago, mammography was typically performed with screen-film cassettes. Now, mammography is undergoing the progress to digital detectors. This progress is some years later than in general radiology. This is due to the higher resolution demands in mammography.

Deodorant, talcum powder or lotion may show up on the X-ray as calcium spots, and women are discouraged from applying these on the day of their investigation.

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