What Are "Spot Films" in Mammography, and When Are They Done?

Question: What are spot films in mammography and when are they done?

Answer: Many times if you have a mammogram, the radiologists will see something on the mammogram that probably is just normal tissue but he or she can't tell for sure. And you'll be either called back or on the same day be asked to have additional views, we call them. It's really looking at the breast from a different angle or squeezing the breast with a smaller compression paddle that is like spreading the surface of Jello a little bit to try and see the structures inside the breast with a little more detail.

The spot compression is just a small, plastic compression paddle that puts a little more pressure in one area, and using that we can frequently tell that something that looked suspicious on the original mammogram is actually just one shadow on one side of the breast overlapping another shadow from the other side of the breast and making it look significant when it's really just normal breast tissue. You have to realize that a mammogram is a picture of all the structures in the breast from one side to the other superimposed on one another. It's a two-dimensional projection, as we say, of a three-dimensional structure. And so something on one side of the breast can shadow and project its shadow over something on the other side and it looks like a very strange object when in fact it's two normal objects superimposing.

If you were to take your hands, for example, and put one hand up and cast a shadow on the wall it's very easy to tell it's a hand. But if you then cast a shadow of two hands at different angles, when you look at what is on the wall it looks like a very strange shadow. Well, spot compression allows us to spread those structures apart so we can in fact see that we are dealing with normal tissue or, on the other side of the equation, that there is something abnormal there.

Next: How Accurate Are Mammograms?

Previous: Should Women Get Digital Mammograms Instead of Conventional Mammograms?

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3636741. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3636741. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3636741. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3636741. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3636741. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3636741.
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: The scene near the finish line of the Boston Marathon is seen in this April 16, 2013 file photo. Inset, suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are seen. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunfight with police and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured.
Elise Amendola/AP Photo; Inset: Lowell Sun, FBI/AP Photo
PHOTO: The first explosion knocked down a runner at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
PHOTO: Pulaski Township Police Sgt. Chad Adam seen here in this undated Facebook photo, went undercover as an Amish woman.
Pulaski Township Police Department/Facebook
PHOTO: The Earths shadow is cast over the surface of the moon as a total lunar eclipse is seen though a Magnolia tree top in the sky over Tyler, Texas, April 15, 2014.
Dr. Scott M. Lieberman/AP Photo