What Is A Mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Mammograms are routinely used for breast cancer screening to look for early signs of breast cancer much before it can cause any signs and symptoms. When breast cancer is detected early, it is easier to treat and having regular screening mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer by upto 40%.

How Is A Mammogram Done?

You will stand in front of a special X-ray machine. A technologist will place your breast on a plastic plate. Another plate will firmly press your breast from above. The plates will flatten the breast, holding it still while the X-ray is being taken. You will feel some pressure. The steps are repeated to make a side view of the breast. The other breast will be X-rayed in the same way. You will then wait while the technologist checks the four X-rays to make sure the pictures do not need to be re-done.

Each woman’s mammogram may look a little different because all breasts are a little different.

It is advised to get a mammogram at the end of periods to avoid any discomfort or pain as most women have tender breasts during and before their periods.

Who Should Get A Mammogram?

For the average risk category, women between ages 45 to 54 years old are advised to get a mammogram every year. Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening mammograms should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years. It is best to discuss with your doctor in detail.

For High risk category:

A women who have risk factors such as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, who are an untested family member of someone who has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, who have a history of mantle or chest radiation which occurred before age 30 years, or who have a lifetime breast cancer risk of 20% or greater based on their family history. You need to consult your oncologist at the earliest to get the customized screening approach as per your history.

Different Types Of Mammography

Conventional or Traditional mammography, here diagnostic images are created by applying a low-dose X-ray system to examine breasts. Mammograms are used to monitor the breasts and assist in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women. X-rays are the most frequently used form of medical imaging.

Digital Mammography also known as full-field digital mammography, in this traditional X-ray film is replaced with a digital chip to record images of the breast. This makes it possible for the images of the breast to be viewed on a computer monitor or printed on a special film similar to traditional mammograms.

The advantages of digital mammograms include faster image acquisition times, fewer total exposures and less patient discomfort.

3D Mammography, also known as 3D Tomosynthesis, allows to better distinguish masses or tissues that might be cancerous. Unlike in traditional mammography where the details of the breast are viewed in one flat image. 3D mammography allows the breast to be viewed in a series of layers, allowing the radiologist to more accurately interpret the images.

The use of 3D mammography has proven to significantly reduce false positive callbacks and to be more accurate in detecting breast cancers early.

Ever Wondered How A Screening Mammogram Is Different From A Diagnostic Mammogram?

A screening mammogram is your annual mammogram that is done every year. Sometimes, the radiologist may ask you to come back for follow-up images, called a diagnostic mammogram, to rule out an unclear area in the breast, or if there is a breast concern that needs to be evaluated.

Know your risk category and schedule a mammogram now for yourselves or for your women in the family and friends circle.