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Screening Mammography begins at 40

Our physicians agree with the American College of Radiology, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Breast Imaging and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network that women in good health should receive mammogram every year starting at age 40. Screening mammography is looking for early disease in healthy women as breast cancer is highly curable when found in its early stages. Women with higher than average risk may start screening at an earlier age.  For example, women with family history of breast cancer may start 10 years earlier than the age of diagnosis of their first degree relative. However, breast cancer can affect any woman regardless of race, age, and dense tissue. It’s extremely important to receive annual screening exams.

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Diagnostic Mammography

Diagnostic mammography is performed when a woman has a problem such as a palpable lump, nipple discharge, or change in appearance of the breast or skin overlying the breast.  These issues may be self-detected by a woman or by her physician or routine clinical breast exam.  Diagnostic mammography may also be performed when there is something unclear on screening mammography and the radiologist needs to take a closer look. Often, diagnostic mammography is performed in conjunction with a Diagnostic Ultrasound.


Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography)

Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT), also known as 3D mammography, is the latest advance in mammography. At Santa Barbara Women’s Imaging Center, we preferentially perform tomosynthesis over traditional 2D digital mammography as we believe that there is only additional benefit with no additional harm. DBT is accomplished similarly to a traditional mammogram with the exception that the x-ray tube moves during the exposure, acquiring multiple “snap-shots” from different angles. The result is a stack of thin images, spaced just 1 mm apart, that are reviewed with and compared to standard 2D images. The experience for the woman is identical to traditional mammography.


Mammography FAQs:

Why is Tomosynthesis better than Standard Mammography?

The ability to see breast tissue in thin “slices” dramatically improves clarity and detail. Multiple studies have demonstrated improved cancer detection and decreased false positives. A common reason for callbacks and false positives is due to unclear images using traditional 2D mammography. Dense tissue and cancer can both show white on an image. With 3D, each slice of the breast tissue is shown, providing a clear image for the radiologists. Tomosynthesis was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011. We are proud to be the most experienced site in the Central Coast performing this breakthrough technology since 2012.


What if I have dense breast tissue?

Tomosynthesis is especially useful for women with dense breast tissue but has been shown to benefit women of all ages and tissue densities. Women with dense breast tissue will additionally benefit from Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound (ABUS).

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Is mammography safe for breast implants?

Mammography is safe for women with implants and is used both to detect breast cancer and to check the integrity of the implants. A set of images is made to include the entire breast and implant, and the second set of images is made for the breast tissue. It is not possible to image all of the breast tissue with mammography in many women with breast implants. Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound is sometimes recommended in addition to mammography for these women.

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