Mammography

Personalized attention by a technician specialized in female radiodiagnosis

A mammography uses X-rays to study the soft tissue of the mammary glands, revealing information about its normal or pathological structure. The careful interpretation of this X-ray allows for detecting cancer.

Breast cancer is most common form cancer among Spanish females. This kind of malignant tumour is the primary cause of death among women due to cancer, with a mortality rate of 28.2 per 100,000 women. The actual probability that a Spanish woman develops breast cancer before the age of 75 is approximately 5%, meaning that one out of every 20 women will develop breast cancer before this age. In many cases, detecting the neoplasm or tumour before palpable lesions appear is possible.

It has been demonstrated that the mammography is the most valid test and most widely used to screen for breast cancer (early diagnosis). This means that it is used, among other exams, to detect early stage breast cancer in non-symptomatic women. Its acceptance, minimal harmful effects and cost have facilitated its use in population screening worldwide.

How the test is performed

During the mammography, a qualified X-ray technician places the breast in the mammography unit. The breast is placed on a special platform and compressed with a parallel plate (in general, made of transparent Plexiglas or other plastic). The technician will gradually compress the breast.

Compressing the breast is necessary in order to:

  • Flatten thickness of the breast so as to visualize all breast tissues.
  • Extend breast tissue so that small abnormalities can be seen. If not, they could be hidden by the upper breast tissues.
  • Employ lower doses of X-ray given that the thinner amount of mammary tissue being x-rayed.
  • Maintain breast firm in order to reduce the possibility of movement, causing blurry images.
  • Reduce spreading of X-rays to increase image sharpness.

You will be asked to change position during the procedure. Routine views are head to foot and an angled side view. The process is performed on both breasts.

You should remain completely still and might even be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds as the X-ray images are taken in order to reduce the chance of a blurred image. The technician stands behind a wall or in an adjacent room in order to activate the X-ray machine.

Upon completing the test, you will be asked to wait while the technician checks that all necessary images have been acquired.

The test lasts between 15 and 25 minutes.

Preparation and advice

Do not make an appointment for your mammography the week before your period if your breasts are normally sensitive during menstruation. The best time to have a mammogram performed is one week after your period.

Always inform your physician or X-ray technician if you are pregnant or possibly pregnant and about any surgery that you have had, the use of hormones and family or personal history of breast cancer.

We also recommend:

Do not use deodorant, baby powder or lotion under your arms or on breasts the day of the test. Any of these could appear on the mammography as calcium deposits.

Describe any symptom or breast problem to the technician who is performing the test.

If possible, obtain prior mammograms and give them to the radiologist when having the test performed.

You do not need to have this test performed on an empty stomach.