10 Things You Should Know About Mammography
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — a month when women typically think about mammograms. In recognition of this, we’ve decided to talk about mammography in this week’s blog post. Specifically, there are ten things you should know about mammography:
- A mammogram is essentially a low-dose X-ray of the breasts used to screen for breast problems such as lumps, and to distinguish between fluid-filled lumps (cysts) and solid masses.
- Mammograms are able to detect cancer before you or a physician may notice anything wrong. Early detection is key in the treatment of breast cancer and significantly improves outcomes. Mammograms are currently the most effective screening method to detect early breast cancer.
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women 40 and over have yearly mammograms. Women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may be advised to start having mammograms earlier.
- Equipment matters! Digital mammography is slowly replacing traditional film-based mammography, which was limited in its ability to detect some cancers, especially those in women with dense breasts. Digital mammography has greatly improved the early detection of cancer. At Zwanger-Pesiri, we use only digital mammography, as well as Computer-Aided Detection (CAD) to help identify and locate masses. Why does this matter? According to the FDA, CAD could increase early breast cancer detection rates by as much as 23.4%.
- 3D mammography (also known as 3D breast tomosynthesis) is the newest form of mammography and is offered at eight of our facilities. This groundbreaking technology creates 3D images which helps detect and diagnose small tumors that may be hidden on a regular 2D mammogram. Experts believe that 3D mammography will replace regular mammography as the standard of care. Newsday and CBS News recently covered this topic.
- 3D mammography also reduces false findings (both positive and negative) because the 3D images are clearer and sharper than 2D images. This process creates millimeter-thin slices of the breast that allows the radiologist to see through the overlapping tissue. Because of this, fewer women are called back for additional imaging or biopsies.
- Ever wonder why antiperspirants, deodorants and powders should not be used when having a mammogram? The reason is that these substances may make it more difficult to interpret results. Powders can sometimes look like microcalcifications, and antiperspirants can sometimes cause images to appear foggy.
- Who performs the actual mammogram? At Zwanger-Pesiri, a specially trained radiologic technologist performs the mammogram, and then a radiologist, who has been subspecialty trained in women’s imaging interprets the images.
- What if a mammogram comes back abnormal? Don’t panic. An abnormal mammogram does not mean that you have cancer. The majority of abnormalities are benign — such as cysts, harmless lumps or areas of more dense breast tissue. However, in order to determine the cause of the abnormality, your physician may order additional tests such as an ultrasound, a breast MRI or a biopsy.
- Why is compression necessary during a mammogram? Compression (or the squeezing of the breast between two plates) is the slightly uncomfortable part of the mammogram that many women dread. Compression, however, is necessary in order to obtain quality images. Compression spreads the breast tissue out more uniformly to help capture the clearest images. The good news is that the compression of the breast is very brief.
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