Procedure of Mammography (Mammogram) | Oncology

Mammogram

What is mammography?

A (Mammography) mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It is a screening tool used to detect and diagnose breast cancer. Along with regular clinical exams and monthly breast self-exams, mammograms are a key element in the early diagnosis of breast cancer.

According to a trusted source from the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, after skin cancer. Respectively year there are about 2,300 new cases of breast cancer in men and about 230,000 new cases in women.

Some experts recommend that women age 40 and older have a mammogram every one to two years. The American Cancer Society recommends regular screenings starting at age 45. If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, your doctor may mention that you start screening earlier, have it more often, or use added diagnostic tools.

If your physician orders a mammogram as a routine test to look for cancer or changes, it is known as a screening mammogram. In this type of test, your doctor will take numerous X-rays of each breast.

If you have a lump or any other symptoms of breast cancer, your doctor will order a diagnostic mammogram. If you have breast implants, you probably need a diagnostic mammogram. Diagnostic mammograms are more comprehensive than screening mammograms. They generally require more X-rays to get views of the breast from multiple positions. Your radiologist can also zoom in on certain areas of concern.

How do I prepare for my mammogram?

You will need to follow certain guidelines on the day of your mammography appointment. You cannot use deodorants, body powders, or perfumes. Also, no ointments or creams should be applied to the breasts or armpits. These substances can distort images or look like calcifications or calcium deposits, so it is important to avoid them.

Be sure to inform your radiologist before the exam if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. In general, you will not be able to have a screening mammogram at this time, but if necessary, your doctor may order other screening methods, such as an ultrasound.

What happens during the mammogram?

After you undress from the waist up and remove your necklaces, a technician will give you a gown that ties in the front. Depending on the testing centre, you may be standing or sitting during the mammography.

Each of the breasts fits onto a flat X-ray film. Then a compressor will push the breast depressed to flatten the tissue. This provides a clearer image of the breast. You may have to hold your breath for each image. You may feel a small amount of pressure or discomfort, but it is usually brief.

During the process, your doctor will review the images as they are created. They can request added images showing changed views if something is unclear or needs more attention. This happens quite frequently and shouldn’t be a cause for distress or panic. Digital mammograms are sometimes used if available. They are especially useful for women under 50, who tend to have denser breasts than older women.

A digital mammogram transforms the X-ray into an electronic image of the breast that is saved on a computer. Images are immediately viewable, so your radiologist does not have to wait for images. The computer can also help your doctor see images that may not have been very visible on regular mammography.

Complications

As with any type of X-ray, you are being exposed to a very small amount of radiation during the mammography. However, the risk from this revelation is extremely low. If a woman is pregnant and absolutely needs a mammogram before her due date, she will usually wear a lead apron during the procedure.

Why is the mammogram test done?

A mammogram is an X-ray copy of the breast. Doctors use mammography to look for early marks of breast cancer. Regular mammography is the best tests doctors have for finding breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.

Is the mammogram test painful?

Everyone experiences mammography differently. Some women may feel pain during the procedure, and others may feel nothing at all. Most women feel some distress during the actual x-ray process. The pressure of the test kit against your breasts can cause pain or discomfort, and this is normal.

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