A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to detect breast cancer in women with or without any symptoms of the disease. Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer but help in early diagnosis of cancer before it becomes clinically apparent, thereby detecting at an earlier stage which also leads to a reduction in death caused by breast cancer among women aged between 40 and 70. It is recommended for younger women on a case to case basis based on their risk factors. Mammograms also have few drawbacks like exposure to radiation, detecting something abnormal which isn’t cancer leading to further tests that can cause you anxiety, or it can also in certain instance miss detecting the presence of cancer because sometimes breast tissue can hide a breast cancer. To counter these limitations of mammography, more than one mammography is often recommended before declaring the presence of cancer. It is always advised to discuss with the doctor about your concerns before doing a mammogram.
Early detection of breast cancer decreases the need of breast removal because when diagnosed early, localised cancers can be removed without mastectomy. Apart from mammography, women should practice self-examination of the breast, go for regular breast examinations by an experienced doctor, and also get other forms of tests done like breast MRI or ultrasound. Below are few points you need to know about the importance of mammogram:
1. Save your life – Early detection of breast cancer reduces the risk of succumbing to the disease by 25-30% or more and mammogram could help in diagnosing the presence of cancer. Women should begin having mammograms from the age of 40 or earlier if they show symptoms or are at high risk of developing the disease.
2. Safe and fast procedure – Mammography usually take about 20 minutes and most women report of minimal discomfort. Modern-day mammography involves exposure to only a tiny amount of radiation — even less than a standard chest X-ray, making it a safe procedure.
3. Digital mammogram – Opting for a digital mammogram would be apter if you are below 50 years of age or have dense breasts. A digital mammogram is recorded onto a computer enabling doctors to enlarge certain sections of the image to have a closer look.
Susan Greenstein Orel, M.D. puts together the significance of mammogram by saying, “Mammography plays a critical part in diagnosing breast cancer. In the past, we’d often find that a woman had breast cancer when she came in with a lump. Today, the cancers radiologists find on mammography are usually detected early, before they can be felt by the patient, are smaller than cancers felt by patients, and have much lower levels of lymph node involvement.”