James J. Romano, MD
There are an increasing number of women seeking mammography for various reasons. Here are some useful suggestions to keep in mind for your next mammogram:
- Research the facility where you are going to have your mammogram performed and the doctors who will read your mammograms. Radiologists reading mammograms should have special interest and expertise in this area. Many nowadays have additional fellowship training in breast imaging. The radiologist should spend at least 80 percent of his or her time reading mammograms. There are many facilities these days dedicated only to breast or women’s imaging. A high volume is important. Mammography machines are constantly improving, as often as every two to five years, so find out if they are any older than this. Many facilities fit these criteria; so don’t just go to the first place close to home that you can get an appointment at.
- Know your breast history the best you can, especially if you have implants. Your personal physician or medical records can help with this. Information useful to the mammographer includes: What are your previous surgeries? What type of implants are in place? How old are your implants? Are they under the muscle or not? Implants over eight or ten years old have a high risk of leakage and are more likely to rupture. Do you have contracture? How bad is it? And how long has it been present? Where were your previous mammograms done? Did they show any abnormalities, and, if so, what?
- Know your examination. Breast self-examination should already be well known to you. Take the time to be specific to alert your mammographer and technician about any areas you feel that are of concern to you for whatever reason. Nothing is too small to point out.
- Find out what technique will be used for your mammogram. For example, for patients with breast implants, you should have a diagnostic, not screening mammogram. There are several imaging techniques used. Specifically, the displacement (full view) and the compression (push-back) techniques. Make sure your technician is familiar with these techniques.
- Obtain your previous films or copies and have them with you. This may prevent duplicating special views or answer questions about possible “new findings.” If previous mammograms showed breast implants with a leak or rupture, your technician needs to know this and your exam should proceed with extreme caution.
- Be aware of pain during the test. Some discomfort is normal. If you have severe pain during your mammogram, then stop the test. Ask for the radiologist. Although rare, implants have been known to rupture during mammography. You will often have some pain or discomfort up to two weeks after the procedure.
- Review your results with the mammographer and look at your films. This is an excellent way to become educated about your breast anatomy and have a better sense of what is seen on the films and how this relates to what you may feel on your exam.
Ask for copies of your films if you want these for your personal records. It is your mammogram, and you paid for it. This is often a free or nominal charge service. Mammography is a very important and useful test. Be as prepared and well informed as you can about your history, your body, and the facility.