Mammography is a vital screening tool for the early detection of breast cancer. It involves taking X-ray images of the breast tissue to identify any abnormalities. The breasts are compressed between two plates to obtain clear...
What is Mammography?
Mammography is a vital screening tool for the early detection of breast cancer. It involves taking X-ray images of the breast tissue to identify any abnormalities. The breasts are compressed between two plates to obtain clear images from different angles. Mammograms can detect both palpable and non-palpable abnormalities, such as tumours and microcalcifications. Early detection through mammography can lead to timely treatment and improved outcomes. It is recommended that women undergo regular mammograms, usually starting from the age of 40. While the procedure can be uncomfortable for some, its potential benefits in detecting breast cancer make it an essential component of women's healthcare.
What are the types of Mammograms?
There are two main types of mammograms:
- Screening Mammogram: This is the most common type of mammogram and is used for routine breast cancer screening in women who do not have any breast symptoms or abnormalities. It involves taking two X-ray images of each breast, one from top to bottom and another from side to side. The goal of a screening mammogram is to detect any early signs of breast cancer or abnormalities that may require further evaluation.
- Diagnostic Mammogram: A diagnostic mammogram is performed when there is a specific concern or abnormality detected in the breasts. It is used to investigate further after an abnormal finding on a screening mammogram or when a woman experiences breast symptoms such as a lump, nipple discharge, or changes in breast appearance. Diagnostic mammograms may include additional views or specialized imaging techniques to provide more detailed information about the area of concern.
How is a Mammogram Done?
During a mammogram, the patient stands in front of a specialized X-ray machine specifically designed for breast imaging. A step-by-step overview of how a mammogram is typically done is explained below:
- Preparation: The patient undresses from the waist up and wears a gown provided by the imaging facility. It is advisable to avoid using deodorants, perfumes, powders, or lotions on the chest or underarms, as these substances can interfere with the imaging process.
- Positioning: The technologist, who is trained in mammography, positions the patient in front of the mammography machine. The patient's breasts will be exposed one at a time for imaging. It's important to communicate any discomfort or pain to the technologist during the procedure.
- Compression: The technologist helps position the breast on a platform attached to the machine. The breast tissue needs to be spread out and flattened for optimal imaging. A plastic paddle is then lowered onto the breast to apply compression. Compression can cause temporary discomfort, but it is necessary to obtain clear and detailed images. The compression lasts only for a few seconds during each image.
- Image Acquisition: Once the breast is properly positioned and compressed, the technologist moves behind a protective shielded area and activates the X-ray machine. The machine takes images from different angles, typically two images for each breast—one from top to bottom and another from side to side. The patient needs to remain still and hold their breath momentarily to minimize motion blur in the images.
- Repeating the process: After the first set of images is taken, the compression is released, and the process is repeated for the other breast. Both breasts are imaged to enable comparison and identification of any abnormalities.
- Radiologist interpretation: After the mammogram is completed, a radiologist, who is a physician specialized in interpreting medical images, reviews the images and looks for any signs of abnormalities, such as masses, calcifications, or other indicators of breast cancer.
The entire procedure typically takes about 15-30 minutes. The results of the mammogram are usually communicated to the patient by the healthcare provider or through a follow-up appointment, which may involve further diagnostic tests, such as ultrasound or biopsy for a more accurate diagnosis.
What Does having a Mammogram Feel like?
Having a mammogram can feel slightly uncomfortable for some women, but the procedure is generally tolerable. Here's what one might expect during a mammogram:
- Breast Compression: The most noticeable sensation during a mammogram is the compression of the breasts. The compression helps obtain clearer images and reduces blurring. Some women may find this compression to be momentarily uncomfortable or even slightly painful and often released immediately after the image is taken.
- Pressure and Discomfort: The compression can cause a sensation of pressure on the breast. The level of discomfort varies from person to person, and some women may experience more discomfort than others. If the pressure or pain becomes too intense, inform the technologist, as they can adjust the compression level.
- Holding the Breath: During image acquisition, one may be asked to hold breath for a few seconds, to minimize any motion blur in the images caused by breathing. Holding breath may feel slightly uncomfortable, but it is a brief momentary requirement to ensure the clarity of the images.
Mammography Preparation & Procedure
An overview of mammography preparation and the procedure is explained as follows:
- Clothing: On the day of mammogram, wear a two-piece outfit that is easy to remove from the waist up. This will make it convenient to undress for the procedure.
- Deodorants and lotions: It are advisable to avoid using deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, perfumes, or lotions on chest and underarms. These products can interfere with the mammography images.
- Previous mammograms: If one has had previous mammograms at a different facility, try to obtain the images and reports and bring them. This allows the radiologist to compare the current images with any previous ones.
- The Mammogram Procedure:
- Registration: At the imaging facility, one will be asked to complete registration forms, provide personal information, and present identification and insurance information, if applicable.
- Explanation and consent: A technologist will guide the patient through the mammogram procedure and explain the process. They will address any questions or concerns patient has, and obtain consent to proceed.
- Changing into a gown: Patient will be directed to a private area where she can undress from the waist up. Patient will be provided with a gown to wear during the procedure. It is important to remove any clothing or accessories that may interfere with the mammogram images, such as bras with metal underwires.
- Positioning: The technologist will position the patient in front of the mammography machine and will ask to stand close to the machine and place one breast at a time on a platform attached to the machine. The technologist will adjust the height of the platform to ensure proper alignment.
- Compression: To obtain clear images, the technologist will gently compress breast between two plates made of clear plastic. Compression is necessary to spread out the breast tissue and reduce movement, resulting in clearer images.
- Image acquisition: Once the breast is properly positioned and compressed, the technologist will step behind a protective shielded area and activate the mammography machine. During image acquisition, one will be asked to hold breath for a few seconds to minimize motion blur.
- Repositioning: After the first set of images is taken, the compression is released, and the technologist will reposition the breast for the next view. This process is repeated for the other breast.
- Completion: Once images of both breasts have been captured, patient will be allowed to dress. The technologist will inform the patient that the procedure is complete, and they can usually resume their normal activities.
The mammogram images will be reviewed by a radiologist who specializes in interpreting them. The results will be sent to Patient’s healthcare provider, who will discuss with them and recommend any necessary further steps.
Price of Mammography X-ray
The cost of mammography X-ray in India can vary depending on several factors such as the city, type of facility, equipment used, and whether it is done at a government hospital, private hospital, or diagnostic centre. Additionally, the cost may also vary based on whether it is a screening mammogram or a diagnostic mammogram.
On average, the cost of a mammography X-ray in India can range from around INR 1,500 to INR 4,500. It is worth considering that certain government healthcare programs, insurance plans, or charitable organizations may provide mammography services at subsidized rates or even free of charge for eligible individuals. Therefore, it is recommended to explore such options and consult with healthcare providers or relevant organizations to inquire about any available financial assistance or programs that can help cover the cost of mammography in India.