A mammogram is the only reliable way of detecting the presence of breast cancer while it is still in its early stages and before a lump can be felt. Lumps in the breast are not only caused by breast cancer. They can simply be cysts or prominent breast tissue. A mammogram will help determine the nature of the lump.
When should I have a mammogram?
Regular screening mammograms are recommended from the age of 40 years.
Women aged 40 to 50 years should have annual mammography.
Women aged 50 and over should have a mammogram every two years.
Women who have had a previous breast cancer should have annual mammography.
If you qualify and register with the BreastScreen Aotearoa programme, you will be offered a free mammogram every two years. However, some women who have either a significant family history of breast cancer or changes in the breast detected by prior biopsy may require annual mammograms beyond age 50.
If you have breast symptoms such as pain, a lump or discharge you must see your doctor for a referral form for a diagnostic mammogram.
All private mammograms will incur a fee.
Options for accessing mammography
Private: Diagnostic mammography is available at our Tauranga and Whakatane branches. A referral from your doctor is needed to make an appointment. At the time of the mammogram a Radiologist will view your mammography images and may recommend further views or possibly ultrasound scanning if more information is needed. The cost of a diagnostic mammogram will vary. Please contact us for an indicative price.
A screening mammogram is for women who currently have no breast symptoms or concerns. Screening mammography is available at our Tauranga, Whakatane and Mount Maunganui branches. Women over the age of 40 are able to come to us for a screening mammogram without a referral letter/form from a doctor. Simply contact us and we can make an appointment for you. This examination bares a cost and is not a free service.
Breast Screening Aotearoa: This is the free national screening programme. Visit www.breastscreen.govt.nz to find out more.
Other: Your doctor may be able to obtain funding through the Public Health system for you to be able to have a mammogram. Discuss this option with your GP if you wish to explore it further.
Your mammogram will be performed by a Medical Imaging Technologist (MIT) with specialised skills and experience (mammographer). Two views of each breast are taken, however sometimes further views are required so that all of the breast tissue can be clearly demonstrated. There is no need to be concerned if this happens, as we are simply being thorough. In some cases you may be required to have an ultrasound of the breast too. Ultrasound is particularly useful in detecting cysts within the breast.
The whole visit should take approximately half an hour. Please allow plenty of time.
Please do not use talcum powder or deodorants on the day of your examination as they can show up on the mammogram images.
If you have any previous mammogram films please bring them with you.
Mammograms do not detect ALL breast cancers and if you notice any changes in your breasts during the time between mammograms, then you must see your doctor.
A report will be sent to the person that referred you for your mammogram. This normally occurs within 24 hours but it is often sooner, dependent upon how the referrer prefers to receive their reports. However, if your mammogram was done urgently a radiologist can make contact directly with the person that referred you to pass on a preliminary report of the findings.
What is Digital Breast Tomosynthesis?
Digital Breast Tomosynthesis the latest mammography technology that provides 3D mammography imaging and a more comfortable imaging experience for our patients.
Tomosynthesis is shown to be beneficial in the detection of small breast cancers compared with conventional mammography, particularly for women with dense breast tissue by reducing tissue overlap. It has also been shown to decrease call backs, which may lessen anxiety for our patients.
Tomosynthesis is not a replacement for the conventional mammogram, but a complimentary imaging technique. It is performed on the same mammography machine with similar technique to a standard mammogram. During the imaging multiple images are taken of each breast during a single sweep and the computer generates the reconstructed images into a three-dimensional 1mm slice images.
What are the benefits of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis?
The procedures are much faster, images are processed almost instantaneously, targeting is simple and the biopsy system has been optimized while the x-ray dose remains low.
This technology allows for increased accuracy with precision targeting for biopsy. Laser guided pinpoint incision entry for accurate needle placement and anesthesia delivery around the incision site, with automatic mechanical stop ensuring the needle halts when it reaches the target.
The only biopsy system with a needle guide that can be moved away during the procedure to keep the needle out of the field of view, to prevent it from altering images.
Who should get Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Imaging?
Tomography is an option for patients that can be undertaken during a private screening mammogram, or it may be recommended by a radiologist during a diagnostic mammogram.
Where can I get Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Imaging?
Tomosynthesis is currently only available in Tauranga (Promed House), however plans are in place to bring the service to Whakatane as soon as possible.
How much does Digital Breast Tomosynthesis cost?
At this stage Breast Screening Aotearoa are not funding it as part of the screening programme, but it is made available during assessment clinics as part of the post screening work up process.
The cost of a tomosynthesis is an additional $101.00
Sometimes an area identified on mammography images is considered to be of clinical concern, and may need to be biopsied. Alternatively it may be an area that can be felt during breast examination but is not well seen on mammography images.
A core biopsy of an area can be performed by a radiologist using ultrasound to guide the needle to the correct position. The biopsy involves taking a fine sliver of tissue to be taken for analysis.
Local anaesthetic is injected into the skin and a fine biopsy needle is inserted into the area. It is usual to take several samples to ensure that a representative sample has been obtained from the area of concern.
The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes and is generally well tolerated by most women. There may be some bruising as a result of the procedure but mild painkillers and application of ice can help with that.
After the procedure the tissue samples are sent to the pathology laboratory for analysis. The results are sent to the doctor or specialist that requested the biopsy and is co-ordinating your care.
A stereotactic biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure where a stereotactic device is attached to the mammographic system. This enables the radiologist to accurately biopsy areas seen on a mammogram that are not seen on ultrasound or through clinical examination.
The procedure takes approximately 45-60 minutes. A dedicated, reclinable chair is used and you will either be sitting or lying down. Local anaesthetic is injected into the skin and then approximately 5-10 small tissue samples are taken. Mammographic images are taken throughout the procedure to confirm the correct area is targeted.
The procedure is generally well tolerated by all women. There will be some minor bruising and pain but mild painkillers and a cold compress will help this.
After any biopsy procedure the tissue samples are sent to the Laboratory for analysis. These results are sent to the doctor or specialist that requested the biopsy and who is co-ordinating your care. These are generally available within one week of the procedure.
A specialist breast surgeon will sometimes ask for a location device called a ‘hookwire’ to be inserted into the breast tissue prior to surgery. The device enables the surgeon to precisely localize the area that needs to be removed during surgery.
This procedure is arranged by the surgeon at a time that fits in with the planned surgery.
The ‘hookwire’ is placed into position by a radiologist using either mammography or ultrasound technology to aid him/her. The procedure is usually done immediately prior to surgery (within a few hours).
Local anaesthetic is injected into the skin and a fine needle is inserted into the area. The wire is placed over this needle, the needle is removed and the wire secured.
The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes.
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