Everything you need to know about your first mammogram

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A mammogram is a breast examination that allows early detection of cancerous changes. It is an important test that women should have regularly

Mammography plays more and more important role in women’s lives every year. And rightly so, because this examination is of great importance in the detection of early breast cancer and thus significantly reduces mortality from this disease. Indications for performing mammography is the age over 35-40 years, but also symptoms such as breast pain and suspicious changes in the nipple (including tumors, nipple leakage or cyst). Women who have started hormone therapy or who are at increased risk for breast cancer should also have a mammogram

What is a mammogram?

Radiological breast examination, or mammography, can detect breast cancer at an early stage, with an estimated sensitivity of about 90%. The test does not require anesthesia, and a traditional camera can detect lumps as small as 3 mm. In recent years, two new MRTG methods have also been used to provide even greater accuracy, namely FFDM (digital mammography) and CAM (computer-aided detection). Screening mammography can detect early cancer in women who don’t have any symptoms, as well as in those who, for example, feel a lump in their breast or notice breast discharge.

What does mammography look like?

The test takes about ten minutes. It may be performed in a hospital or clinic. The patient, who should be undressed from the waist up, is shown two mammogram views: CC-top-down and MLO-angled, during which she remains in a standing position. Sometimes a lateral (ML) position is also performed to visualize lesions lying deep within the gland that are difficult to palpate. The doctor or radiology technician places the breast on an equipment plate in the correct position, and then the breast is gently compressed by a second plate. The pressure is gradually increased during the examination. After a mammogram, you may experience intermittent breast pain and, in some cases, a subcutaneous hematoma (bruise).

photo: cottonbro/ pexels.com

How do I prepare for a mammogram?

Before you have the test, talk to your doctor first if you’ve noticed any changes in your breasts. Tell him or her about any surgeries you’ve had, medications you’re taking and if there’s a family history of breast cancer. Also be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant. It is recommended that you do not have a mammogram the week before your period because your breasts are more swollen and tender during this time. The best time to have the test is in the first 7 days after the first day of your period. On the day of the test, you should not use deodorants or lotions in the armpit area – the chemicals in these can crystallize and cause microcalcifications to appear on the test.

Is mammography painful?

During the test, the breast is flattened by the compression between the film cartridge and the pressure plate. This may cause a little pain and be stressful for the patient, but is not harmful to the breasts. Squeezing them together is necessary to get a proper mammography image because it unifies the tissue structure and minimizes the risk of the equipment overlooking even a very small change. It also makes it possible to use a much lower dose of x-rays.

How often should I have a mammogram?

Women with an average risk of breast cancer over age 40 should have a mammogram every year. They should also have an annual palpation examination by a doctor and a self-examination. In Poland, mammography is reimbursed for women aged 50 to 69 and can be performed once every 2 years as part of the Population-based Breast Cancer Early Detection Program

Read also: How to perform breast self-examination? Here are 7 steps

Main photo: cottonbro/ pexels.com

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