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Screening mammogram can save women lives – it is usually used for breast cancer early diagnosis. Earlier breast cancer is discovered, higher is treatment success and survival rates. Mammogram is the X-ray picture of the breast – it can identify not only cancer but simple benign lumps, cysts or other abnormalities.

Mammography is the most common method to check for breast cancer – mammogram can discover cancerous tumor before women get symptoms. Mammogram cannot prevent breast cancer, but it can save women lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible.

Screening mammogram

Different cancer societies recommend different programs for screening mammography (based on their scientific data). But most medical experts recommend yearly screening mammograms starting at age 40-45. It can be started even earlier if women are at risk of breast cancer (family history, breast diseases, breast cancer symptoms). Most experts recommend performing screening mammography until you’re in your mid-70s.

Screening mammography is a voluntary decision. It is always useful to discuss the issue with your family doctor.

All women should be eligible for screening mammograms starting at age 40.

Many women ask how actually mammography is done. It is pretty simple procedure – qualified medical staff positions your breast between two plastic plates which compress the breast and make it flat. It could be uncomfortable, but it helps get clear better breast images. Each breast is X-rayed in two different positions – from top to bottom and side to side. Some women consider the procedure uncomfortable. Duration of the procedure is about 15-20 minutes for both breasts.

Mammogram is the received image which should be checked by qualified medical experts. Based on results, doctor would decide if additional mammogram is needed or other tests should be done (ultrasound or MRI or biopsy).

Sometimes mammograms criticized because of false negative and false positive results. False negative mammogram means the X-ray picture does not show existing breast cancer (for several reason including dense breast tissue). Sometimes normal breast tissue can hide a breast cancer so that it doesn’t show up on the mammogram. At the same time, mammography can identify the abnormality that looks like breast cancer, but turns out to be normal. False positive mammograms can trigger stressful false alarm identifying not existing cancer and requesting additional tests for final clarification. False positive mammogram cause emotional trauma for women and their relatives as well as more diagnostic tests and follow-up visits, which can be also stressful.

Sometimes women afraid of radiation risks during mammography but modern equipment are not dangerous and radiation exposure is less than a standard chest X-ray.

Screening mammogram breast cancer detection rate is about 80-85%. Nowadays advancing technologies raise the detection rates. It was noted that detection rates improve with age – in older women breasts become less dense which makes tissue easier to see through on mammograms.

Screening mammogram

Mammogram – main points

  • Mammogram can identify small breast cancerous tumor before woman clarify any symptoms of breast cancer;
  • Mammograms can save women lives as early breast cancer diagnosis increases survival rates by 25-30%;
  • All women should have annual mammography starting from 40 and earlier if risk factors are existing (family history, breast cancer symptoms, breast lumps);
  • Mammography is safe and radiation exposure is minimal;
  • Procedure of screening mammography is simple and fast (about 15-20 minutes) with short time discomfort;
  • Women with dense breasts and younger than 50 should try digital and/or 3-D (three-dimensional) mammography or ultrasound test or MRI.

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