From the Breast Diaries:

Questions and Answers to Honor Pink October 2012

By Stacey Vitiello, MD
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is upon us, and amidst the sea of pink products being hawked by corporations with varying degrees of charitable intentions, I thought it might be a good idea for The Breast Diaries to mark the month with a number of short posts that go back to the basics, containing questions that had been posed to me by, a very informative website that connects patients and their questions with the appropriate experts to answer them. Comments and follow-up questions are always welcome!

Question: What is a mammogram and how is it performed?

  • A mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast. Usually two pictures of each breast are obtained for a complete mammogram of both breasts; one picture is taken from the side, and the other is taken from the top. The breast is compressed between two plates, and the patient holds her breath for a few seconds while a beam of low-dose radiation is sent through the tissue to create an image. Compression is necessary for a few reasons. First, overlapping structures in the breast need to be separated as much as possible. Second, the more compression, the less radiation dose is needed. Third, better compression results in a sharper picture, as the breast is held very still while the picture is taken. The exam usually takes no more than ten or fifteen minutes.

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