A mammogram, often called “the picture that can save your life,” is a safe, low-dose X-ray that is able to detect irregularities in the breast that neither you nor your doctor can feel. To take your mammogram, the technologist will have you stand in front of the X-ray machine and place your breast between 2 plastic plates. These plates will compress your breast while the X-ray is taken.
Note: Do not wear deodorant or powder to your mammogram appointment. These items contain calcium, which can show on an X-ray and confuse the findings.
The technologist will take great care to make you as comfortable as possible, but it is necessary for the breast to be well compressed. Remember, any discomfort will only be for a few minutes.
A screening mammogram is usually faster and costs less due to the fewer number of views taken. Screening mammograms are routine tests done yearly for women who do not have any breast symptoms.
A diagnostic mammogram is done for women who have breast implants, have had a previous cancer, or are having breast symptoms. If you have a diagnostic mammogram, you will be asked to wait while the radiologist — the physician who is expert at reading mammograms — views your films.
Do not be alarmed if after viewing your films the radiologist wishes you to have more mammography views taken, or an ultrasound scan of the breast to clarify the findings. For most women these additional studies simply prove that there is no cause for concern.
Symptoms of breast disease include a lump that you can feel, nipple discharge, breast pain, or a suspicious area noted on a screening mammogram.
You can greatly reduce your risk of breast cancer by adhering to “the 4 commandments” of good breast health:
YES! The risk of breast cancer increases sharply with age. Most physicians recommend that you begin having yearly mammograms at age 40, and continue to do so forever.
Mammography is the single best method for the early detection of breast cancer.