Frequently asked Questions
About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older). (Source Breastcancer.org)
Digital Tomosynthesis is a 3-Dimensional image formed with the use of x-ray.
Breast Tomosynthesis is a 3D image of the breast and will seem very much like a standard mammogram to you, in fact the standard 2D image obtained in a traditional mammogram is done in conjunction with and at the same time as this procedure.
Breast tomosynthesis takes only a few seconds longer than a traditional mammogram, approximately 7 seconds from beginning to end for each image. Breast tomosynthesis does differ from a traditional mammogram however, because it is three dimensional, creating an image more like a ball than a circle. This is the very latest in breast health procedures, and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. If you are a woman aged 40 or older, you can have a 3D tomosynthesis procedure without a written referral from your health care provider as long as it is your routine annual screening mammogram.
Breast tomosynthesis has revolutionized breast imaging. While traditional mammograms have been a very good diagnostic tool allowing for early detection of cancer, this detects the cancer earlier still and addresses some of the limitations of traditional mammograms. With 2D digital mammography, the radiologist is viewing all the complexities of the breast tissue in one flat image. Tissues can overlap, giving the illusion of normal tissue looking abnormal. In 3D mammography (Tomosynthesis), high-powered computing (similar to CT scans) is used to convert digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers or slices’, building what is essentially a 3-dimensional mammogram’. This allows the radiologist to examine breast tissue detail one slice at a time to help find breast cancer at its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.
A good analogy for 3D mammography is thinking about the pages in a book. If you look down at the cover, you can’t see all of the individual pages. But, when you open the book, you can go through the entire book page-by-page to see everything between the covers. 3D Tomosynthesis, used in screening mammography has been proven to reduce call-backs’ or false positives by up to 40%. And it has been shown to improve the detection of cancer by 10-30% over traditional mammography.
You can minimize your discomfort from breast compression by:
• Scheduling your examination 1 week following your menstrual cycle.
• Eliminate caffeinated products 5 days prior to your exam.
• Taking a non-aspirin pain reliever such as Tylenol (Acetaminophen), Motrin/Advil (Ibuprofen), or Aleve (Naproxen) one hour before your examination
Tell your mammogram technologist if:
• You’ve had previous mammograms at other locations
• You’re nursing or if you think you could be pregnant
• You have breast implants, so that extra time may be allotted
• You’ve had any recent breast surgeries or biopsies
• You have a personal history of breast cancer
The entire exam should take approximately 30 minutes. Please arrive 15 minutes before your exam and be sure to remove any powder, perfumes, deodorant and/or lotions from your underarms and breasts before your appointment.
For your comfort, your mammogram will always be performed in private by a certified female technologist with advanced training in mammography. Before your exam she will ask you to undress from the waist up, change into a gown provided for you and remove any powder, deodorant and / or perfumes from your underarms and breasts.
Typically, a screening mammogram consists of two views of each breast, one from above and one from the side. Images are obtained by compressing your breast tissue between a compression paddle and plate. Adequate compression is essential to detect subtle abnormalities and reduce radiation expose. The compression may be briefly uncomfortable, especially if your breasts are tender.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as changes in the size or shape of one of your breasts, you have discovered a lump in a breast or swelling near the armpit, or have noticed a change in or discharge from a nipple your doctor will likely order a diagnostic mammogram. While pain in a breast is not a common symptom of cancer, it too may warrant this exam. Additionally, if your radiologist sees something abnormal on your screening mammogram, you will be asked to return for a follow up diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram is used to get a closer look at any abnormality, to rule out cancer. If it is unable to do so, a breast ultrasound or MRI may be ordered.
With 3D tomosynthesis and digital mammography radiologists are seeing more details than ever before. It is not uncommon to get called back for an additional look, but with tomosynthesis, this chance is lowered by 40 percent. A vast majority of breast abnormalities are benign (not cancer). The images are noting natural changes that occur with age. Keep in mind, however, that every abnormality should be taken seriously. Gathering of all the information necessary to make a thorough interpretation from an imaging study can take time. All abnormalities found in breast tissue require careful evaluation. Additional views of the breast may be required and different examinations or procedures – such as breast ultrasound, breast MRI, or image-guided breast biopsy – may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis.
Your mammogram and any additional studies will be carefully examined by a board – certified radiologist. Your findings will be promptly forwarded to your health care provider. A letter briefly explaining the results will be mailed to your address or sent via email. It is important to follow up with your health care provider. The results of this examination will be compared to your overall health status, which only your health care provider can assess for you.