Mammography | Diseases and conditions: Medical tests.

What is a mammogram?

Mammography is an x-ray of the breast that can detect the presence of breast cancer early. It is a special x-ray, as it emitted a dose very low radiation, and is capable of detecting suspicious lesions of cancer even less than 100 microns in size.

When should I get a mammogram?

There are two types of mammography, screening and the diagnostic:
Screening mammography is performed in asymptomatic women. It allows the detection of breast cancer in very early stages of its development, so it increases the likelihood for curative treatment at an early stage. Although changes in different countries, in general screening (in English screening) is recommended every 1-2 years for women between 40 and 50 years, and each year in women over 50 years. Sometimes it is recommended to perform a screening in women under age 40 with a family history of breast cancer, history of mammary pathologies, or very dense breasts. The effectiveness of screening has been shown clearly even in women over the age of 80 years.
Diagnostic mammography is performed in symptomatic, for example women when there is an abnormal the nipple discharge, when it is felt a breast nodule, or of screening mammography is not normal. Diagnostic mammography takes more time than the screening, because x-rays are performed in different positions to properly study the possible tumor and the surrounding tissue. In women with implants breast or history / personal breast cancer often are made as screening diagnostic mammography techniques to increase the sensitivity of the test.

Preparation for mammography

These are the issues that you must consider when you undergo a mammogram:
Duration: the test takes about 15-30 minutes.
Entry: the test is done on an outpatient basis.
Is necessary to be accompanied?: don't have to be accompanied by although it might help if it makes you feel more relaxed.
Drugs: is not necessary to take any prior medication. You can take your usual medication.
Food: don't have to go on fasting.
Clothing: can wear any clothes desired but something that is easy to remove, because you will be asked to leave bare should be chest. Nor should carry metal objects (earrings, bracelets, etc.) because they will be asked to remove them during the test.
Documents: can carry previous reports with information about their health, and mammograms earlier if it is necessary to compare them with that is to be performed.
Contraindications: there are no absolute contraindications. It is not usually done in women below 30 years because breast tissue is denser and the test is not reliable. It is important to inform your doctor of the possibility of being pregnant or if it is giving suck.
Pregnancy and lactation: the realization of a mammogram is considered safe during pregnancy and breast-feeding because the radiation dose is very low. However, moms are more dense during pregnancy and lactation, so the test is less reliable. You should consult your doctor about the risk and profit making, or postpone the test, or the possibility of replace it with other evidence such as breast ultrasound.
Other considerations
Do not use deodorant, talcum powder, or any type of lotion or cream on your breasts or underarms the day of the test, as it could interfere with the result of the same.
The best time to perform the test is one week after the rule as it is when your breasts are least sensitive.
It should inform the physician of the use of hormonal, background on breast surgeries treatments, or if you have personal or family breast cancer history.

How is a mammogram

For the realization of the mammography you will be asked to undress and remove jewelry and metal objects from the waist up. They provide a disposable gown to cover. It examines each breast individually. To do so, compress the breast between two sheets of plastic. This compression allows to obtain images with less radiation dose and quality of the entire breast. Usually images above are taken down and one side of the breast to the other. They may be necessary images from other positions. A few small marks on the skin are sometimes made to locate regions that should be studied closely, or skin lesions. In the moment in which the images are taken we have to remain very still and you may be asked to keep a moment breathing. The technician who takes x-ray will be in an adjacent room from which activate the emission of x-rays. After the test, you may be asked to wait a bit, because the technician will examine the images and tell you if it is necessary to repeat any of them.
  • Possible complications of this test is very limited:
  • The radiation is extremely small for what is considered a very safe test.
  • There is no rest of radiation in the body after the procedure.
  • The compression of the breast between two plates can be a bit annoying. Where compression is painful, you can tell the technician perform the test with one lower compression.

The mammogram results

Following the completion of the test, a medical specialist will carefully examine images. The result is usually available within a few days. If they don't give results in a few days, you should ask for them and not assume that the test is normal.
It should bear in mind that mammography has some limitations. You may not detect any cancer, giving rise to what in medicine we call false negatives, or can be mistakenly diagnosed cancer when there it, what we call false positives.
In general, the results can be the following:
All normal.
Discovery of a benign, non-cancerous, lesion requiring no different from the usual follow-up.
Discovery of a probably benign lesion, but that requires a narrower track.
Discovery of a lesion suspected of being malignant by suggesting it to consider carrying out a biopsy.
Finding of injury with high probability of being malignant. It is suggested to take measures for a precise diagnosis.
Your doctor will inform you about the results of the test and will instruct you if it needs new revisions or performing other procedures.
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