Mammography

BASIC INFORMATION
DEFINITION:

Mammography is a procedure that involves taking x-rays of the breasts to detect breast cysts or tumors, especially those that cannot be felt (palpable) by the fingers during a physical examination. A mammogram is the photographic result. The procedure does not prevent breast cancer; it is used to detect cancer early when it is more likely to be successfully treated. However, there are some breast cancers that are not visible even on mammograms.

REASONS FOR PROCEDURE

  • Evaluate breast symptoms such as lumps, persistent pain, nipple discharge.
  • Screen for breast cancer.
  • Helps differentiate between non-cancerous breast disease and breast cancer.

RISK
None expected.

DESCRIPTION OF PROCEDURE

  • All clothing above the waist is removed and a gown provided that opens in the front.
  • You will stand in front of the x-ray equipment.
  • Each breast in turn will be compressed between 2 plastic plates in 2 or more positions for x-rays. Compressing the breasts can be uncomfortable, but it minimizes the amount of radiation required to get a clear image.
  • after the films are taken, they are checked to make sure they are readable. If not, the procedure will be repeated.

EXPECTED OUTCOME

  • There are normally no physical side effects from the test itself.
  • As a screening test, results usually reveal normal breast tissue with no abnormal masses or calcification.
  • Any findings that suggest cancer require further tests (such as biopsy) for confirmation.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS
Misdiagnosis; missing cancers that are there or mistaking benign lumps for cancerous ones.

POSTPROCEDURE CARE
GENERAL MEASURES

  • There are no special self-care measures to take following the test.
  • Test results that are suggestive often require a needle aspiration, biopsy and/or ultrasound testing.
  • Further testing may be recommended even if the mammogram results are negative, such as when there is an undiagnosed abnormality on physical examination or unexplained symptoms occur.
  • Follow-up treatment steps will depend on the specific diagnosis.

Routine mammograms are recommended for the following age groups:

  1. Around the age of 40 years, all women should have their first mammogram.
  2. Between ages 40 and 50 years, women should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years.
  3. After age 50 years, all women should have a mammogram every year.
  4. Women at high risk for breast cancer (anyone with a close relative who has had breast cancer) should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years beginning at age 35 year.