What are Mammograms?
Mammograms are X-ray images of the breast. They help in the early diagnosis of breast cancer at a stage where there may not be any symptoms. A Mammogram is extremely sensitive and can detect lumps that are small enough to be missed by palpation with the hand.
Mammograms don’t prevent breast cancer, but they can save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible. Mammography plays a critical role in diagnosing breast cancer.
In the past, breast cancer was only diagnosed when the woman came in with a lump. Now, however, mammography detects cancer earlier before there is any lymph node involvement even.
Early diagnosis of breast cancer can reduce the risk of dying from the disease by 25-30% or more. Women should begin having Mammograms yearly at age 40, or earlier if they're at high risk.
Mammography Test Procedure:
A Mammography test takes about 20 minutes at the most. The procedure is safe and exposure to radiation is minimal. Pregnant women should avoid Mammography unless it is absolutely required as even small doses of radiation are harmful to the growing foetus.
During a Mammogram, a patient’s breast has placed on a flat support plate and compressed with another plate called a paddle. This is what causes the "ouch" factor. There might be some mild discomfort or pain.
The breast needs to be compressed to hold it in place so that there is no blurring of the image because of any movement. Also, a flattened out breast will reduce the radiation dosage, and improve the quality of the image. On an even plane, all the tissues in the breast are visualised, and small abnormalities have no place to hide.
An X-ray image or digital image has taken. As a routine both a top view and a side view have taken of each breast. Digital imaging is so much clearer and does not have to be repeated. Also, the file can easily be stored or transferred. Certain areas had enlarged to get a better view. It also takes better images of dense breasts as of those in women after menopause.
On a film Mammogram, areas of low density, such as normal fatty tissue, do not show up, whereas areas of dense tissue, such as connective and glandular tissue or tumours, appear whiter on a black background.
These areas could represent many different types abnormalities, including cancerous tumours, non-cancerous masses called benign tumours, fibroadenomas, or complex cysts.
Radiologist Examining a Mammogram:
The radiologist will look at the size, shape, and contrast of a mass, as well as the edges or margins, which can indicate the possibility of cancer. He will also look for tiny bits of calcium, called micro-calcification, which show up as very bright specks on a mammogram and sometimes indicate the presence of a specific type of cancer.
If a Mammogram is abnormal, the radiologist may order additional mammogram views, an ultrasound or MRI. If suspicious areas had detected, he/she may order a biopsy.
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