What happens during mammography?
Mammography is the process of taking an x-ray picture/s of the breast, while the mammogram is the x-ray film image itself. The mammography machine is dedicated only to these x-rays of the breasts. Therefore, you will find the room specially assigned for mammography.
In Malaysia, trained female mammographers perform mammography. You will have to undress to the waist. Usually 2 views of each breast are taken, one from the side and one from above.
The mammographer (radiographer) will position you appropriately and your breast will be gently compressed until an optimum flattening is obtained. The idea is to flatten the tissue out evenly, as this will allow abnormal details to be more easily detected with a minimum of radiation. Thus for good quality mammograms, there must be adequate compression. When carefully done, this is not too uncomfortable and you only have to hold this position momentarily. Modern machines will automatically release compression after the split second long x-ray is taken. The mammographer will step away from you to the console to “shoot” the x-ray. Today, the mammographer need not step out of the room to take an x-ray of your breast. They just need to stand behind the lead screen where the console is.
Most women are very afraid of the “pain” entailed in the compression phase. However, in most patients, the pressure from the plates is more often uncomfortable rather than painful. Even so, pain is subjective and all of us have different perceptions and thresholds for pain. Most times, there must be 2-way communication between you and the mammographer, so that you will have minimum of pain.
It helps to view mammography positively as it will help you have a more pleasant experience. Remember this mammogram may help to save your life. Each x-ray only takes a few moments, and most women would have adjusted after the first compression view. If you are one of those with breast pain, it may help to schedule your mammogram after your menses (period) is over, so that the breasts are less tender.
Click here to read what women said after having their mammograms.