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Every year, many women put off having their annual screening, and with the addition of COVID, last year was no exception. There are plenty of reasons why, but the one that comes up the most is the uncomfortable, or even sometimes painful, compression. So why is it so important?

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Why is compression necessary during a mammogram?

    • Compression helps to spread out the normal fibroglandular (dense) tissue of the breast making it easier for radiologists to see through the breast tissue and detect abnormalities that might be hidden by the overlying tissue.
    • If the breast is not well compressed, overlapping tissue can look like a mass or abnormality. This can increase the likelihood of a patient getting called back for additional images.
    • Compression helps reduce motion artifacts. These can be caused by accidental patient movement or breathing motions and result in unclear or blurry images.
    • Calcifications can be seen more clearly when the breast is adequately compressed.
    • The more the breast is compressed, the less radiation exposure is needed to obtain optimal images.

Overall, compression helps reduce the likelihood of artifacts and provide a better view of a patient’s breast tissue.

How long does the compression last during a mammogram?

When you have a screening mammogram, certified technologists help position your breast on the mammogram machine. Once properly in place on a special platform, your breast is gradually compressed with a plastic paddle for only a few seconds. The intent is to do this as comfortably as possible while ensuring adequate and consistent compression. Women often tell us that the expectation of pain is worse than the pressure they actually experience.

Research shows that applying insufficient compression can lower the detection rate of a mammogram. Technologists check patient images for quality as inadequate compression can potentially lead to an inclusive reading and a callback for additional imaging. Once satisfied with the image, this process is repeated for your other breast.

“If your mammogram has been uncomfortable in the past or you are worried it will be, try acetaminophen or ibuprofen before the imaging, and use an ice pack afterward. Mammogram is the best screening test for breast cancer. It can cause temporary discomfort or pain, but it is definitely worth it!”

-Mary Elizabeth Christian, MD, FACS, BCBA, Breast Surgery

What to expect during your mammogram, and how can you prepare for it?

Mammogram appointments usually take about 20 to 30 minutes. Our technologist will be with you during every step and are prepared to answer all of your questions. On the day of your appointment, a few easy tips can make your appointment go smoothly:

    • Avoid wearing lotion, powder, deodorant or perfume. If you are wearing deodorant, we have wipes available to remove it, as these products can cause spots on the X-ray.
    • We recommend you wear a two piece outfit, not a dress, as you will have to wear a gown and undress from the waist up. For your privacy and comfort, Baton Rouge Clinic has in-suite dressing rooms.
    • Bring your insurance card. At the imaging center, you will first register at the front desk in the lab, then we’ll collect your information to submit it to your insurance company.

After registering, a mammography technologist will bring you to a separate waiting area for women inside the imaging center, and your history sheet will be reviewed. The technologist will ask if you are having any new problems and if you have noticed any lumps.

The compression is important as it serves to separate the tissues within the breast to optimize image quality, and lasts only 10 seconds. Rather than using the stationary mammography machines that were standard in the past, Baton Rouge Clinic utilizes two Genius 3D Mammography machines. Rather than taking just one image of breast tissue, the X-ray arm moves to take a series of images from different angles. This allows physicians to look at layers of tissue and have a complete understanding of any potential issues.

If you have any questions or concerns during the screening mammogram procedure, our office team members, mammography technologists and radiologists are happy to address your concerns.

For more information about compression during a mammogram, check out Wake Radiology.

Together we can ensure your healthiest future possible

Our Imaging Center for Women is dedicated to the evaluation and diagnosis of breast diseases. We offer a state-of-the-art 3D digital mammography or Tomosynthesis and Ultrasound in a comfortable and private environment. During your annual physical with your internist, we can also conveniently offer on-site 3D screening mammography services. At your request, prior mammography films can be obtained from outside physicians and facilities.

What are the five benefits of 3D Mammography?

1.   More accurate detection: By minimizing the impact of overlapping breast tissue, 3D mammography can make a tumor easier to see. Reviewing multiple images can potentially help doctors find more cancers than with 2D images alone.

2.   Earlier diagnosis: Overlapping tissue can hide small cancers in a 2D scan. However, with 3D mammography, the image “slices” can be analyzed one by one. This means 3D mammography may potentially help detect cancers earlier than conventional mammography.

3.   Better detection in dense breast tissue: Dense breast tissue, often found in younger women, can cause shadows due to overlapping tissue, which sometimes hides tumors from traditional 2D mammography. 3D mammography takes images of the breast from multiple angles, thereby offering a cutting-edge look through and around breast tissue.

4.  Less Anxiety: 3D mammography can help reduce false alarms. The improved accuracy in diagnosing abnormal structures offered by a 3D view of the breast decreases the number of unnecessary callbacks to women for additional scans and biopsies.

5.  Safe and Effective: During a 3D mammogram, women will experience a negligible amount of additional radiation, compared with a standard mammogram.

Schedule your annual screening mammogram today!