A Diagnostic mammogram is the use of low dose X rays which are used to detect cancerous anomalies in the breasts of women. This method makes use of ionizing radiation and has been in use since the 1980s. In most cases a combination of 2D mammography and tomosynthesis is sufficient to detect cancers but in other cases one may have to opt for additional screenings. There are three types of mammography screenings used either individually or in combination for the detection of breast cancer. Let us look at these different types of mammograms:
- 2D mammography, film or also known as analog
- 2D mammography digital or also known as full field digital mammogram – In this type of mammography a dedicated electronic detector system is used to computerize and display the X ray information
- Tomosynthesis or 3D mammography makes use of a dedicated electronic detector system with which you can get many projection images which are later synthesized with the help of a computer and create thin slices of the breast.
2D digital mammography is comparatively more sensitive and hence more accurate in dense tissue. The digital images obtained by this method can be stored for future reference in a computer system which is known a PACS – picture archive communication system. With the help of these stored images a radiologist can quickly retrieve previous exams and compare them with the new ones. This comparison can be done every year in order to gauge any major changes.
In diagnostic mammography of tomo specially equipped digital X ray machines are used and this helps the radiologist to get images at many different angles. Similar to standard mammography in tomo as well a paddle is used to compress the breasts to minimize the dose of ionizing radiation required to penetrate the tissue and also to reduce movement. 3D mammography or tomo is able to detect additional 1 to 2 cancers per thousand women.