Mammogram Screening

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What is Screening Mammography?

Screening mammography is an X-ray imaging of the breasts that helps your doctor in detecting tumors and other abnormalities. Mammography can be used either for diagnostic purposes (like evaluating a breast lump) or for screening purposes.

A screening mammogram is used to detect breast tissue changes in women with no signs or symptoms of breast cancer, while a diagnostic mammogram is used to evaluate unusual changes in the breast like a lump or a change in breast size.

Why would I get a Screening Mammography?

The Americal College of Radiology recommends annual screening mammograms for women with an average risk for developing cancer and age 40 or older. Also, the American Cancer Society advises women with an average risk to begin screening mammograms yearly at age 45 until age 54, and then continue every two years. 

You should talk to your physician about evaluating your risk of breast cancer.

What happens during a Screening Mammography?

Before the test, you will be asked to remove neck jewelry and clothing from the waist up. 

During the procedure, you will stand in front of an X-ray machine designed for mammography. The technician will place one of your breasts on a platform and raises or lowers the platform depending on your height. Then, the breast is gradually pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate. The pressure is applied for a few seconds to spread out the breast tissue. The pressure isn't harmful but can be uncomfortable or painful. 

What to expect after a Screening Mammography?

The entire procedure should take less than 30 minutes. Once you are done, you can dress and resume your regular daily activity.

In the United States, federal law requires facilities to send your results within 30 days, but you can usually expect to receive your results sooner. Ask the technician what you can expect.

Conclusion

After images are taken, a radiologist interprets the images and sends a written report of the findings to your doctor. The radiologist looks for evidence of cancer or noncancerous masses that may require further testing or treatment. Possible findings include masses, lumps, or calcium deposition in ducts (calcifications).

Further testing may be required if the radiologist notes areas of concern on your mammogram. Further testing includes additional mammograms, ultrasound imaging, or a biopsy to remove a sample of the breast tissue for examination. Sometimes, diagnostic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used in areas where the current imaging with ultrasound or mammography is negative.

Citations

Mayo Clinic: Mammogram


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