10 Facts About Mammograms
10/1/2012 11:29:00 AM
It’s time to think pink! Breast Cancer Awareness Month is here and not only should you know your risks, but take preventative health measures while peforming monthly breast self exams. But if you notice any changes, call your doctor for an appointment. They may follow up with a mammogram, while depending on your age and/or family history, you may need one sooner than later. From “The Grio”, here are nine things you should know about mammograms., while the 10th one I added for my implanted sistas:
1. The Definition. A mammogram is a picture of the inside of the breast. There are two types of mammograms available to patients: a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram.
2. How a Screening Mammogram Works. Screening mammograms usually involve two sets of images of each breast. The images can detect tumors not felt during your self-exam, and also finds microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium) that could indicate the presence of breast cancer. Screening mammograms are done with routine checkups, meaning you don’t need to discover an abnormality first before receiving one.
3. How a Diagnostic Mammogram Works.Diagnostic mammograms take longer than screening mammograms because more images are taken to obtain views of the breast from different angles. Usually, the patient is no longer seeking precautionary measures, but looking to know more about a lump, sign, or symptom that already has been found. Signs of breast cancer may include pain, skin thickening, nipple discharge, and a change in breast size or shape. However, these signs also can be non-cancerous, and diagnostic mammograms can help doctors make accurate diagnoses.
4. The Good Side of Screening Mammograms. Early detection of breast cancer means that treatment can start earlier, and possibly before the disease has spread. Studies have proven that screening mammography can help reduce the numbers of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 74, and especially those over age 50. However, studies have not proven that there is a benefit from regular screening mammography in women under age forty.
5. The Bad Side of Screening Mammograms. Fast-growing or aggressive cancers may have already spread to other parts of the body, regardless of whether or not a screening mammogram has been taken. There’s also the possibility of false-negative results — when mammograms appear normal even though breast cancer is present. Screening mammograms miss up to 20 percent of breast cancers present at the time of screening, mainly due to dense and fatty breasts. Younger women are more likely to have denser breasts.
False-positive results also have occurred when radiologists conclude that the mammogram is abnormal but no cancer is actually present. Again, this is more common in younger women. All abnormal mammograms should be followed up with additional testing: diagnostic mammograms, ultrasound, and/or biopsy. There’s also the risk of radiation exposure, as with all radiology. And repeated x-rays and radiology exams have the potential to cause cancer. The radiation exposure of resulting from mammograms is very low, thus the benefits tend to outweigh the risk.
6. The Best Age to Begin Screening Mammograms. Women age 40 and older should receive screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years. But women who have a personal or family history of breast cancer should talk with their health care providers and decide whether or not to have mammograms before the age of 40 and if so, how often.
7. How Much Do Mammograms Cost? Unfortunately, the cost of screening mammograms varies by state, facility, and insurance coverage. Thankfully, most states have laws that require health insurance companies to reimburse all or part of the cost of screening mammograms. If you’re insured, contact your insurance company and mammography facility for information about cost and coverage. Uninsured women can get free or low-cost mammograms through calling the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service (CIS) at 1-800-232-4636.
8. Where Can You Get a High-Quality Mammogram? Women can get high-quality mammograms at breast clinics, hospital radiology departments, private radiology offices, and doctors’ offices. Find a facility using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
9. Know Your Legal Protections. The Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) is a Federal law designed to ensure that mammography is safe and reliable. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or an FDA-approved Certifiying State must certify all mammography facilities. The facility must have mammography equipment that is tested periodically, employ trained personnel to administer tests and interpret data, and have a quality assurance program. They also must have a system for following up on abnormal mammographic findings and obtaining biopsy results.
10. What about if you have breast implants? While there is a chacne of rupture – particularly if you have newer implants - current guidelines still encourage women with breast implants to have regular mammograms. But women need to tell the facility when making the appointment so the technician will know, plus you need to know if they deal with any patients who have implants! (And make sure you tell if you have gel implants or saline.) Though there are reports of diffuclty regarding implants mammography, there are methods other than traditional ones, such as an MRI or ultrasound, that are options to use if needed. Don’t let your implants keep you from getting checked. In some cases depending on the method, you can find out if you have a rupture in your implant but most importantly, you must keep doing what you can to protect your breasts – impants and all.