A mammography is an X-ray exam that provides detailed images (mammograms) of the internal structure of the breast tissue of both men and women and can reveal changes that are too small for you or your doctor to feel. This means that many cancers can be found when still very small and haven’t yet spread, which is important for successful treatment.
A diagnostic mammography exam is may be requested to:
- Examine symptoms of a breast abnormality.
- Determine the cause of breast pain, nipple discharge, thickening of skin on the breast, or changes in the size or shape of the breast.
- Evaluate the integrity of breast implants.
- Detect, locate, and determine the stage of breast cancer, as well as assess the effects of chemotherapy.
- Distinguish between scar tissue and recurrent tumours.
- Investigate a possible abnormality shown on a screening mammography.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR MY EXAM?
- Schedule your appointment one week after your last menstruation to decrease breast tenderness.
- Avoid caffeine during the three days prior to your exam.
- If you’ve had a previous mammography, bring, or have your doctor send, your previous images for the day of your appointment, especially if they were taken out of town so we can review them.
- If you felt pain from your last mammography, please let us know.
- Please tell us if you have any problems moving or if you have shoulder or chest pain.
- Bathe or shower the day of your appointment.
- Do not use deodorant, antiperspirant and lotion or powder under the arms or near the breast area as they can affect imaging.
- Wear a two-piece outfit so you can change for the exam more comfortably.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING MY EXAM?
- You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and given a robe.
- Your technologist will move you to the correct position between two X-ray plates.
- The surfaces will slowly move together, compressing the breast for a short time to minimize your discomfort. Compressing the breast is necessary to get the clearest image of your tissue using the least amount of radiation.
- Each breast will be imaged at least twice to create a top and side view for each one.
- We will let you know if a follow-up exam is needed. You are then free to leave.
WHEN WILL I GET MY RESULTS?
We do our best to have our radiologists interpret the information and forward the results to your doctor by the next business day.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
One exam, per year, is covered under your Alberta Health Care Plan for women age 40 and above. It is not currently offered at our Saskatchewan clinic. If you are younger, or need more frequent examinations, please consult your doctor.