Mammography is a type of medical imaging that uses x-rays to capture images (mammograms) of the internal structures of the breasts. Quality mammography can help detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages – when it is too small to be felt or detected by any other method.
The two types of imaging currently used for mammography are
- Screen-film mammography where x-rays are beamed through the breast to a cassette containing a screen and film that must be developed. The image is commonly referred to as a mammogram.
- Full field digital mammography where x-rays are beamed through the breast to an image receptor. A scanner converts the information to a digital picture which is sent to a digital monitor and/or a printer.
Mammography uses x-rays to produce an image of the breast, and the patient is exposed to a small dose of radiation. The Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) established baseline standards for radiation dose, personnel, equipment, and image quality.
The benefits of mammography in detecting breast cancer at an early stage outweigh the risks of radiation exposure. In some cases, early detection of a breast lump may mean that chemotherapy is unnecessary.