Mammography Q & A
What are the benefits of using 3D mammography?
What is 3D mammography?
How is 3D mammography different than 2D?
What will my mammogram be like?
Does a mammogram hurt?
Because compression is needed to detect subtle abnormalities in the breast, some women experience minor discomfort during a mammogram exam, especially if their breasts are tender. Others experience no discomfort at all. The best way to reduce discomfort is to schedule your exam a week after your menstrual cycle and take a non-aspirin pain reliever (such as Tylenol, Advil or Aleve) an hour before your exam.
Why is a baseline mammography important?
Your first mammogram, or baseline, is valuable because it gives the radiologist a starting point for comparison with all future exams. Occasionally, a subtle abnormality is only seen when a radiologist compares your current mammogram to ones you’ve had before.
How will I get the results of my mammogram?
Your mammogram and any other related exams will be interpreted by the breast center’s board-certified radiologists who specialize in breast imaging. Your screening mammogram report is typically finalized within 24 hours and delivered to your referring health care provider. A results letter will also be mailed to you. Should your mammogram results recommend further imaging, the breast center will call you 1 to 2 days following your screening mammogram to schedule a diagnostic mammogram or other testing. If you had a diagnostic mammogram or additional imaging, you will know before you leave your appointment whether or not further testing is required. We will also send those results to your provider.
How effective is mammography?
Evidence has shown that mammography is most effective tool for breast cancer screening. Since annual screening mammography became available in the early 1990s, breast cancer deaths have been reduced by 39%. Mammograms are the only proven screening test to show such staggering results. However, there are limitations of mammography. Depending on your breast density, the ability to detect a cancer or abnormality ranges from 75-89%. Therefore, because some breast cancers do not show up on mammograms, it is important to continue regular monthly breast self-examination and an annual clinical breast exam by your healthcare provider as part of your breast health routine.
How often should I get a mammogram?
CORA advises women to get screening mammograms every year starting at age 40. One in every six new breast cancers occurs in women in their 40s. The American College of Radiology, the Society of Breast Imaging, and NCCN (National Cancer Consortium) all recommend annual mammograms beginning at age 40. Other recommendations do exist, but they admit that beginning later or choosing to screen every other year will cause more women to die from the disease. Evidence has shown that women who skip a yearly mammogram may miss the opportunity for an early breast cancer diagnosis. Women whose breast cancer is detected at an early stage have a 98% percent or higher survival rate in the first five years. Our goal is to detect cancer before you can feel it.
What if I don’t have any risk factors for breast cancer?
What if I am at higher risk for breast cancer?
When you come for imaging at CORA’s Breast Center, we will evaluate your risk during your visit.
What if I’m pregnant?
Should I have a mammogram if I’m breastfeeding?
Is mammography safe for women with breast implants?
What is a mammogram with breast implants like?
Will I be exposed to unnecessary radiation by getting a mammogram every year starting at age 40?
Does having a mammogram increase my chance of developing thyroid cancer?
Some women have expressed concern, due to an erroneous media report, that the small amount of radiation a patient receives from a mammogram may significantly increase the likelihood of developing thyroid cancer. According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), this concern is not supported in scientific literature. The ACR is a professional medical organization dedicated to being the premier source of information on radiology and nuclear medicine.
The ACR explains that the radiation dose to the thyroid from a mammogram is extremely low and is equal to the amount that a person receives from natural background sources simply from standing outside for 30 minutes. For women who receive annual mammograms from age 40 to 80, the total lifetime risk of developing cancer from the tiny amount of radiation scattered to the thyroid is less than 1 in 17.1 million.
The harmful risk of breast cancer going undetected and untreated due to skipped mammograms are infinitely higher than the nearly non-existent risk that a mammogram could cause thyroid cancer.
Does the breast center offer thermography as well as mammography?
No. The breast center does not offer themography because it is not a credible alternative to mammography. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety communication in 2011 regarding the use of thermography in breast cancer screening. The FDA stated, “…thermography is not a replacement for screening mammography and should not be used by itself to diagnose breast cancer. The FDA is not aware of any valid scientific data to show that thermographic devices, when used on their own, are an effective screening tool for any medical condition including the early detection of breast cancer or other breast diseases.”
Public health agencies and national medical and professional societies agree with the FDA that mammography is still the most effective method of detecting breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages. These organizations include the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the Society of Breast Imaging.
The position of the American College of Radiology is that, “Thermography has not been demonstrated to have value as a screening, diagnostic, or adjunctive imaging tool. Thermography is not a substitute for mammography screening. Mammography remains the gold standard for breast cancer screening. We recommend that women begin annual mammography screening at age 40.”
For more information, see the FDA article, Thermogram No Substitute for Mammogram.
When should I stop getting my screening mammogram?
What if I have dense breast tissue?
Dense tissue refers to the amount of glandular tissue we see on your mammogram, relative to the amount of fatty tissue. Half of all women have dense tissue around the age of 50. However, we inform patients about their breast density because dense tissue does slightly increase the risk of developing breast cancer and it does make your mammogram slightly more difficult to evaluate. This means it is even more important to continue regular yearly screening mammograms, monthly self-exams, and annual physical exams by your provider. Any changes should be evaluated with diagnostic mammography and ultrasound. Some women will choose to also screen with whole breast ultrasound in addition to regular mammograms.
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