What is a mammogram?
Mammography (mammogram) is X-ray imaging of the breast using low-energy X-rays. It is a screening and diagnostic tool used to examine the breast for the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. Together with monthly breast self-examinations and clinical examination, mammograms are crucial in the early diagnosis of breast cancer.
Regular mammography helps in detecting breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it appears as a lump in a breast self exam. Your doctor may recommend you to start doing breast self-examination and yearly mammography if you have a personal or family history of breast cancer.
What are mammography recommendations by age?
- Women who are 40-44 years of age have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
- Women who are 45-54 years of age should get mammograms every year.
- Women who are 55 years and older should switch to getting mammograms every two years or can continue yearly screening.
- Doctors do not recommend screening mammograms for women younger than 40 years, but they advise women with a known mutation in the breast cancer gene to begin screening at 25 years. They initiate screening in women with a family history of breast cancer 10 years earlier than the age at which their relative was diagnosed with cancer.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.
Screening mammography vs. diagnostic mammography
What is screening mammography?
A doctor could advise screening mammography as a routine test to detect any breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. It usually involves two X-rays of each breast. Using a screening mammogram, it is possible to detect a tumor that cannot be felt.
What is diagnostic mammography?
A doctor advises diagnostic mammography for diagnosing unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, nipple discharge or thickening, or a change in the breast shape or size. A diagnostic mammogram is also used to evaluate abnormalities detected in a screening mammogram. Diagnostic mammography is more extensive than screening mammography and is appropriate in cases where breast changes are suspected, regardless of a woman's age. It usually involves more X-ray exposure to get views of the breast from various positions.
How is mammogram procedure performed?
Preparation for mammography:
- Patients should avoid the use of perfumes, deodorants, powder, cream, and ointment in the armpits 24 hours before the test.
Procedure for mammography:
- During mammography, the radiologist places the patient’s breast on a flat support plate.
- Then, they compress the patient’s breast with a parallel plate called a paddle. The compressor pushes the breast down to flatten the tissue. This provides a clearer picture of the breast.
- An X-ray machine produces a small burst of X-rays that pass through the breast to a detector located on the opposite side.
- The detector could be a photographic film plate that captures the X-ray image on film or could transmit electronic signals to a computer to form a digital image. The images produced are called mammograms.
- In typical mammography, the radiologist takes top and side views of each breast. They may take additional views if they are concerned about a suspicious area of the breast or if something needs further attention or is not clear.
Digital mammograms allow for improved breast imaging, especially for women who are younger than 50 years and have denser breast tissue than older women. Digital mammography provides electronic images of the breasts that are immediately visible and can be enhanced by computer technology and stored on computers.
What are the risks of mammography?
Because mammography uses X-rays to produce breast images, patients are exposed to a very small amount of radiation during the procedure. However, the risk from this exposure is extremely low. For most women, the benefits of regular mammography outweigh the risks of radiation exposure.
Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. If it is necessary for a pregnant woman to have mammography, special precautions must be taken to minimize radiation exposure to the fetus. She will typically have to wear a lead apron during the procedure.
Some discomfort may be felt because the breast is compressed against the X-ray plate during the procedure. However, this compression will not harm the breast.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Is a Mammogram?
BreastCancer.org. Mammography: Benefits, Risks, What You Need to Know.
Top What Age Should a Woman Get a Mammogram Related Articles
Are There Any Clinical Trials for Breast Cancer?Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women. Around 250,000 women and 2,300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States. Each year, breast cancer kills around 42000 women and 510 men in the United States.
Breast cancer is an invasive tumor that develops in the mammary gland. Breast cancer is detected via mammograms, breast self-examination (BSE), biopsy, and specialized testing on breast cancer tissue. Treatment of breast cancer may involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Breast cancer risk may be lowered by managing controllable risk factors.
What you should know about breast cancer
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.
- One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer.
- There are many types of breast cancer that differ in their capability of spreading (metastasize) to other body tissues.
- The causes of breast cancer are unknown, although medical professionals have identified a number of risk factors.
- There are many different types of breast cancer.
- Breast cancer symptoms and signs include
- a lump in the breast or armpit,
- bloody nipple discharge,
- inverted nipple,
- orange-peel texture or dimpling of the breast's skin (peau d'orange),
- breast pain or sore nipple,
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpit, and
- a change in the size or shape of the breast or nipple.
- Breast cancer can also be symptom free, which makes following national screening recommendations an important practice.
- Breast cancer is diagnosed during a physical exam, by a self-exam of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound testing, and biopsy.
- Treatment of breast cancer depends on the type of cancer and its stage (0-IV) and may involve surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
Breast Cancer and Coping With StressBeing diagnosed with breast cancer is stressful. Learning relaxation techniques, exercising, eating well, getting adequate sleep, receiving psychotherapy, and maintaining a positive attitude can help you cope. Creating documents, such as an advance directive, living will, and durable power of attorney will outline your wishes in the event that you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your care.
Breast Cancer and LymphedemaLymphedema is a common chronic, debilitating condition in which excess fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes swelling in them. It is common after a mastectomy, lumpectomy or breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy.
Young Women & Breast CancerIs breast cancer genetic? Should I get tested for the BRCA gene? What every young women should know about breast cancer. Discover the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and other crucial breast cancer facts.
Where Breast Cancer SpreadsWhen breast cancer spreads, or metastasizes, it often goes to these five places: the lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, and brain. See how breast cancer metastasis affects the body, possible symptoms, and treatment.
Breast Cancer SlidesLearn about breast cancer causes, symptoms, tests, recovery, and prevention. Discover the types of treatments such as surgery and drug therapies as well as the survival rate for breast cancer.
Breast Cancer QuizThis Breast Cancer Quiz features signs, symptoms, facts, causes, common forms, terms, risk factors, statistics, and more. Increase your awareness of breast cancer now!
Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: Questions and AnswersAs breast cancer is the most diagnosed non-skin cancer in American women, it is important to know your breast cancer risk. Risk factors include age, age at menarche, age at first live birth, history of breast abnormalities, breast biopsies, race, and history or breast cancer among first-degree relatives.
Genetic Testing: Families With Breast CancerBreast cancer can be a killer and the decision to get tested to see if a patient is prone to the disease should be discussed with a doctor -- particularly if the woman has a history of breast cancer in her family. Genetic testing can only tell so much about breast cancer risk, however.
Is a Breast Ultrasound or Mammogram Better?The breast cancer diagnostic test best suited to you depends on your age, your symptoms, and the structure of your breasts. As a rule of thumb, a breast ultrasound is more accurate in women younger than 45 years. A mammography is preferred in women older than 45 years.
MammogramMammogram is a test that produces an image of the breast tissue on film. The technique is referred to as mammography. Mammography can visualize normal and abnormal structures within the breast such as cysts, calcifications, and tumors looking for breast cancer. The first baseline mammogram for a woman should be between the ages of 35 to 40.
Breast Cancer: Visual Guide to Male Breast CancerBreast cancer isn't just a woman's disease. Learn about the symptoms and treatment of male breast cancer, and find out what can put you at risk for this cancer.
What Are The Five Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer?The majority of breast cancer patients first seek diagnosis because of a lump on the breast. This is one of the five warning signs of breast cancer. Others include changes in the nipple, changes in the breast skin and other symptoms.
What Is Usually the First Sign of Breast Cancer?A lump in the breast or in the armpits is often the first sign of breast cancer. This may be felt while in the shower. There may or may not be changes in the structure of the breast. Other early signs include changes in breast skin, breast pain and others.