A mammogram is a specific form of x-ray used to produce images of the breasts. It is the best radiographic method available to detect tumors, especially since it is able to show tumors that are too small to be felt, and is thus indispensable for women over 40, in whom the chances of breast cancer are increased. Although mammography is not 100% accurate, a regular screening can provide early detection of cancer. Studies show that screenings reduce breast cancer deaths by more than a third.
Though the anticipation of the process and the fear of discovering a tumor can lead to anxiety, a mammogram itself is not painful. Some women may experience slight discomfort due to pressure. In a screening mammogram, two x-rays are taken of each breast in order to visualize the internal structure. (More x-rays are needed for a diagnostic mammogram for women who have symptoms of cancer.) Breast cancer screening is considered most beneficial to women over forty; not only are they at high risk for cancer, but their breasts have more fatty tissue, which makes the images much clearer.
- No dietary changes necessary, although women who are sensitive to caffeine should refrain from its consumption two weeks prior, as caffeine can make the breasts tender.
- Certain phases of the menstrual cycle, like premenstrual and postovulatory, can also make the breasts tender, which should be avoided, if possible.
- A few hours before the mammogram, refrain from applying cosmetics, oils, creams, and deodorant.
- Provide the radiologist your previous mammograms for comparison.
After the Mammogram
Some breast changes may be present, but most of these are not malignant. If normal, a mammogram breast cancer screening should be performed once every two years by women over the age of 40.
If the x-rays show abnormalities, the radiologist may take more x-rays to ensure the clearest image possible. If there are malignant or cancerous lesions apparent on the x-rays, the patient will be informed of various treatment options, including radiotherapy, hormone treatment, and chemotherapy. These treatments depend upon the individual woman and the type and size of the cancer.
Advances in technology have produced digital mammograms, in which the images taken are computerized and shown on a screen, rather than recorded on film using an x-ray cassette. This allows faster and more accurate stereotactic biopsy, and reduces the patient’s discomfort, requiring her to remain still for a shorter period of time. Digital mammography is still in its infancy, but some studies have shown that women with denser breasts, post-menopausal women, and women under the age of forty may benefit from digital mammograms. Otherwise, the digital images are said to be “comparable” at this stage with traditional film images.
Mammograms very important to a woman’s health. The Women’s Specialists of Plano offer advanced mammogram screening services and other advanced gynecological testing and diagnostic exams for women across North Dallas. To schedule an appointment, please contact our office today to speak with one of our staff members.