Why get a mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. For women, it's used as a screening tool to find if a woman has breast cancer. The goal is to find the cancer early.
Research shows that screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 74, especially for those older than 50.
Breast cancer forms in the breast tissues, usually in the ducts, or tubes that carry milk to the nipple and lobules, which are glands that make milk.
Doctors also use mammography for men suspected of having breast cancer.
There is some debate about what age and how often women should get mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends every woman 40 and older have an annual mammogram.
The federal government's National Cancer Institute recommends that women in their 40s and older should have mammograms every one or two years.
Both groups recommend that women who are younger than 40 and have risk factors for breast cancer should ask their health care provider whether to have mammograms and how often to have them.
For example, if your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 42, your doctor might suggest you start getting mammograms at 32. It's always best to talk with your health care provider about what's best for you.
Women in their 20s and older can start giving themselves breast self exams to check for lumps or any changes in the breast. If you find any changes in your breasts during a self exam, it's important to talk with your health professional. It's also important not to panic. Most often, symptoms like a change in the size or shape of the breast or a nipple turned inward into the breast don't mean breast cancer. However, it's important to consult your health provider if you do experience changes so that he or she can diagnose and treat them.
A mammogram generally takes about 10 minutes to 15 minutes. You disrobe from the waist up and put a cloth gown on. During the procedure, your breasts, one at a time, are compressed between two firm surfaces for a short period of time. This allows a radiographer to take X-ray images of both of your breasts. After medical staff determines the images taken are good quality, they will send them to a radiologist who will interpret them.
The radiologist will compare them to years past and look for changes.
You can ask the facility how long it will take to get your results back. It shouldn't take longer than 30 days.
Many insurance companies cover mammograms. If you do not have insurance, some centers in the Oklahoma City metro have reduced-price mammograms. All women age 40 and older with Medicare can get a screening mammogram each year.
It depends. For the majority of women, it doesn't hurt. There are some women who have extreme breast sensitivity and find mammograms to be painful. During the mammogram, the compression is snug, but it shouldn't be unbearable.
Technology has evolved during the past 20 years, and mammograms have become easier for patients.
An over-the-counter pain medication taken an hour before the mammogram can help with discomfort.
You should be able to leave after a mammogram without the need for recovery. You most likely won't have any soreness afterward.
During a mammogram, you will receive a very low dose of radiation from the X-ray. The benefits of mammograms nearly always outweigh the risks of this radiation.
False-negative results are a risk factor to mammograms. They occur when mammograms appear normal even though breast cancer is present. Overall, screening mammograms miss up to 20 percent of breast cancers that are present at the time of screening. The main reason that a woman gets a false-negative result is because of high breast density. This is more common in younger women.
False-positive results are another risk that can cause anxiety and stress. They're also more common in younger women along with women who have had previous breast biopsies, women with a family history of breast cancer and women taking estrogen.
Not all cancers discovered during a mammogram can be cured.
Before getting a mammogram, it's important for women to let their doctor know if they might be pregnant.
For most people, there aren't follow-up procedures. Sometimes you might be called back for further testing. This means there's something on your mammogram that looks different from last year, and the radiologist has decided he or she wants to look at that.
They might do some specialized image testing or a breast ultrasound to determine why the breast image looks different. This doesn't automatically mean you have breast cancer.
For example, women in their 40s have a 1 in 69 chance of developing breast cancer. The risk increases as you age. Women in their 60s have a one in 29 chance.