A ductogram, also called a galactogram, is a special type of mammogram used for imaging the breast ducts. It can aid in diagnosing the cause of abnormal nipple discharges.
The purpose of a ductogram is to locate the origin of an abnormal discharge from the nipple of the breast.
Women who are pregnant should not undergo a ductogram without adequate protection of the abdomen from the x rays that are used in this test.
A ductogram is performed by first cleansing the nipple and areola with an antiseptic. The radiologist performing the test then presses gently on the nipple to determine which duct is leaking fluid. Once the leaking duct has been identified, a small needle (cannula) is inserted into that duct. A dye is then injected into the leaking duct and an x ray similar to a mammogram is performed.
This test is performed in a mammography or breast imaging facility, either in a hospital department or an outpatient x-ray center. During this procedure, the patient is in a sitting, standing, or horizontal position depending on the x-ray equipment available at the testing center where the ductogram is to be performed. The x-ray camera may change position during the study, but the patient is usually stationary. The procedure typically takes 30 to 60 minutes. It is important for the patient not to move except when directed to do so by the technologist.
There is usually little or no preparation required of the patient for a ductogram. Prior to the test, the patient should not attempt to express a discharge from the affected nipple or nipples. Jewelry or metallic objects that may interfere with the x-ray image should be removed for the duration of the ductogram. No deodorant or powder should be used as this can interfere with the test.
If the nipple drainage suddenly stops on the day of the ductogram, the patient should notify her health care provider prior to undergoing this test.
No special care is required after the test. Fluids are encouraged after the procedure to aid in the excretion of the dye from the body.
The risks of a ductogram are very low. Most ductograms use the same amount of radiation as a conventional x ray. Side effects or negative reactions are very rare. Possible side effects include pain, infection, and bleeding from the nipple where the cannula was inserted.
A normal ductogram shows the expected distribution of the dye material within the ducts of the breast and no unusual shape or size of the scanned tissue.
An abnormal ductogram shows an abnormality within the ducts of the breast that may be causing the pathologic discharge of fluid from that breast. If an abnormality is identified, additional procedures, including surgery, may be necessary.
Cardeonsa, Gilda. Ductography. New York: Creative Education Options, LLC, 1996.
American Cancer Society. (800) ACS-2345. <http://www.cancer.org>.
Breast Cancer Overview. 25 May 2001. <http://cancer.mps-group.com/breast_cancer.htm>.
Paul A. Johnson, Ed.M.
—A small tube or hollow needle designed for insertion into a duct.
—A special type of mammogram used diagnosing the cause of abnormal nipple discharges.
—Diseased or abnormal.
QUESTIONS TO ASK THE DOCTOR
- Were any abnormalities detected?
- What future care is necessary?
- What are the risks and precautions of any further procedures?