What is Mammography?

A medical imaging procedure known as mammography uses x-rays at low doses to evaluate the breasts. A mammogram, also known as a mammography examination, helps women with the early identification and treatment of breast disorders.

It is a very common practice for specialists to use x-rays for the identification of and treatment of medical disorders. It is necessary to expose an individual to a small amount of ionizing radiation in order to produce images of the inside of the body. X-rays are the earliest and most widely used form of medical imaging. 

Fig 1: Mammography machine

Types of Mammography

Digital Mammography

The new advancements in mammography include digital mammography, computer-aided detection technology, and breast tomosynthesis. 

The full-field digital mammography system (FFDM), also referred to as digital mammography, is a type of mammography that uses electronics, rather than x-ray film, to produce mammographic images of the mammary gland. These systems are comparable to those in digital cameras, and because of their effectiveness, it is possible to take better photographs with less radiation. In order for the radiologist to review the breast images and store them for a long time, these images are uploaded to a computer. In terms of how a patient feels during a digital mammogram, it is exactly the same as how they feel during a traditional film mammogram.


Computer-aided detection (CAD) systems look for anomalous areas of density, bulk, or calcification that could be signs of cancer on digitized mammographic images. It is recommended that the radiologist carefully examine these spots on the images when they are highlighted by the CAD system as they appear on the images.

Breast Tomosynthesis

A breast tomosynthesis imaging system, also called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) or three-dimensional (3-D) mammography, involves obtaining multiple images of the breast from a variety of angles and reconstructing the images into three-dimensional images (or “synthesizing” them). Breast tomosynthesis is a sophisticated method of imaging the breast from various angles. It is important to note that 3-D breast imaging is comparable to computed tomography (CT) imaging, in which a 3-D reconstruction of the body is created by fusing together a number of thin “slices” to create one image.

The radiation dose for some breast tomosynthesis systems is slightly higher than it is in normal mammography, but it’s still way below FDA-approved limits. Compared to traditional mammography, some methods use pretty similar dosages.

Additionally, breast tomosynthesis may lead to:

  • less need for unneeded biopsies or extra testing earlier diagnosis of tiny breast tumors that may be missed on a traditional mammography
  • increased chance of identifying numerous breast cancers
  • improved visualization of anomalies within thick breast tissue
  • more precise identification of the size, shape, and location of breast anomalies. 

Common uses of the procedure

In the early stages of breast cancer, women with no symptoms can be screened with a mammogram for breast cancer using this screening method. Women who exhibit signs including a lump, soreness, skin dimpling, or nipple discharge can also use them to find and identify breast disease.

Scanning for breast cancer

Due to the fact that mammography can detect abnormalities in the breast, years before the patient or doctor is able to feel them, mammography is vital in identifying breast cancer at an early stage. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) currently suggest screening mammography for women beginning at age 40. Annual mammograms, according to research, aid in the early detection of breast cancers, when they are most treatable and breast-conservation medicines are most effective. 

Diagnostic Mammography

When a woman or her doctor notices an aberrant clinical finding, like a breast lump or nipple discharge, diagnostic mammography is performed to assess the patient. After an abnormal screening mammogram, diagnostic mammography may also be performed to assess the screening exam’s region of concern. 

Mammography Unit

A box with an x-ray producing tube is what a mammography unit is. This device is only used for breast X-ray examinations, and it is equipped with unique accessories that prevent x-ray exposure from going beyond the breast. This device holds and compresses the breast while positioning it in a way that allows the technologist to take pictures from various perspectives while the device holds and compresses the breast.

Digital mammography equipment is used to do breast tomosynthesis, although not all digital mammography equipment is capable of tomosynthesis imaging. 

Working procedure

Radiation like light or radio waves includes X-rays. X-rays can penetrate many objects, including the body. It is the technologist’s responsibility to direct the x-ray beam precisely to the target spot on the patient. During the use of this equipment, we are exposed to a brief burst of radiation that is produced by the equipment. A picture is captured by the rays on photographic film or a specialized detector.

The body’s various organs receive x-rays at differing degrees. While soft tissue (muscle, fat, and organs) allows extra x-rays to travel through them, dense bone catches the majority of the radiation. As a result, air looks black, soft tissue looks as shades of gray, and bones look as white on an x-ray.

The majority of x-ray images are kept as digital data electronically. In order to properly diagnose and treat your disease, your doctor can easily view these saved photographs.

An image from the side and an image from above the compressed breast are captured using a stationary x-ray tube in traditional film and digital mammography. Breast tomosynthesis uses an x-ray tube that moves in an arc around the breast to take several photographs of the breast from various perspectives. 


With screening mammography, breast cancer fatalities are reduced. All forms of breast cancer, including invasive ductal and invasive lobular cancer, can be found using it.

Doctors can detect tiny cancers more easily with a screening mammogram. When the cancer is smaller, the woman has more treatment options.

The use of screening mammography promotes the diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ, which are small abnormal tissue growths restricted to the milk ducts of the breast (DCIS).

Note : Following an x-ray examination, your body absorbs no radiation. In the conventional diagnostic range for this scan, X-rays often don’t have any negative side effects.  

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