You probably have a general idea of what a mammogram is. You also know that getting one is recommended as women get older due to a link in higher incidents of breast cancer with age. However, you may not be clear on the details and just what a mammogram can tell you. It is beneficial to know what a mammogram is, when you should schedule one and what you can learn through this diagnostic exam.
A mammogram is simply an X-ray that is used to provide medical professionals with images deep into the breast tissue. A low dose of ionizing radiation that is not harmful in any way is used to produce the image. The doctor is able to examine the produced image to look for any signs of concern or abnormality. Indications of anything suspicious can then be tested further to determine the specific problem and to formulate a treatment plan.
Early detection has been shown to be the best predictor of successfully treating breast-related cancer. You should have a mammogram performed every year or two once you turn 40. Younger individuals may be advised to undergo a mammogram based on individual advice from a doctor.
Physicians look for certain telltale signs when examining mammogram images. If there is an indication of any of these usual triggers, further evaluation will be necessary. If you have had previous mammograms performed, your results will be compared in order to look for any changes. If this is not possible, the diagnostician will simply search for a usual set of criteria.
The first of these criteria are calcifications, or mineral deposits, that might lie within the breast. These come in two forms: macrocalcifications and microcalcifications.
Macrocalcifications are more common and do not usually require further testing such as a biopsy. They are larger calcium deposits that are usually a result of normal breast changes associated with age.
Microcalfications are much smaller and are more worrisome. Their presence is not a sure indicator of cancer, though. If you have a suspicious-looking microcalcification, a biopsy in which a small piece of the affected breast tissue will be removed for examination under a microscope will probably be ordered.
You may be familiar with the term “mass” in association with mammograms. These abnormal-appearing areas of breast tissue can actually indicate a number of things, many of which are likely not to be cancerous. Cysts and tumors are commons types of masses.
The doctor can get a visual indication of some types of masses from the mammogram image. Other masses may require an ultrasound or biopsy to learn more. The size, shape and edges of a mass can help to direct a course of action.
Your mammogram offers an idea of how fibrous or glandular your breast tissue is in relation to the amount of fatty tissue that exists. Breasts that have very dense tissue are sometimes more difficult to read on a mammogram, and the radiologist may decide to proceed with additional tests as a precaution.
Having regular mammograms performed past the age of 40 should become a routine part of your health regimen. Doing so could be lifesaving. Located in Clermont, South Lake OB/GYN is here to help you every step of the way in maintaining great health. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.