A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray that detects changes or abnormalities in your breast tissue that could indicate cancer. A mammogram allows the doctor to detect lumps that may not be felt by touch.
The American Cancer Society recommends women and their doctor discuss having yearly mammogram screenings between the ages of 40-44. When you reach age 45 and until you’re 54, you definitely should have yearly screenings. After age 55, you may choose to continue annual exams or switch to 1 every 2 years.
A mammogram should not replace your normal self-exam or the exam done by your doctor during your annual check-up. You’re the best judge on how your breasts feel and look, and can sometimes detect changes that don’t show up during a screening.
Not at all. A suspicious spot simply warrants more tests, including a possible biopsy, where cells are extracted and sent to a lab for further analysis. Your mammogram may have been unclear or the doctor noticed an abnormality that’s just a cyst or calcification — not cancerous masses.
Technology today uses low radiation to get quality x-rays. That being said, a mammogram does subject you to radiation, though not at levels that are likely to cause health issues. Plus, the benefits of detecting cancer early outweighs any potential risk.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, or you or the doctor detected an abnormality on a self-exam, you might undergo a diagnostic mammogram to check for a possible suspicious lump. If you’ve had breast cancer in the past, you may also have regular diagnostic mammograms.
To get the best picture possible, the x-ray machines used for mammograms compress your breasts to spread the tissue. The procedure can be slightly uncomfortable and awkward, but it doesn’t usually hurt.
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