What You Need to Know
They can save your life.
Finding breast cancer early reduces your risk of dying from the disease by 25-30% or more. Women should begin having mammograms yearly at age 40, or earlier if they're at high risk.
Don't be afraid.
Mammography is a fast procedure (15 minutes), and discomfort is minimal for most women. The procedure is safe: there's only a very tiny amount of radiation exposure from a mammogram.
Mammography is the most powerful breast cancer detection tool.
However, mammograms can still miss 20% of breast cancers that are simply not visible using this technique. Other important tools — such as breast self-exam, clinical breast examination, and possibly Breast Ultrasound or MRI — can and should be used as complementary tools, but there are no substitutes or replacements for a mammogram.
Get the best quality you can.
If you have dense breasts or are under age 50, try to get a digital mammogram. A digital mammogram is recorded onto a computer so that doctors can enlarge certain sections to look at them more closely.
An unusual result requiring further testing does not always mean you have breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 10% of women (1 in 10) who have a mammogram will require more tests. Only 8-10% of these women will need a biopsy, and about 80% of these biopsies will turn out not to be cancer. It’s normal to worry if you get called back for more testing, but try not to assume the worst until you have more information.
myths and truths
debunk the myth
There have been myths about mammograms that you might have heard about on TV or the Internet. One of these myths is that the pressure from mammograms on a malignant tumor can break it open and cause it to metastasize. There is absolutely no evidence for this claim. In fact, not getting a mammogram or not exerting enough compression during a mammogram will increase the risk of a delayed diagnosis, resulting in a higher risk of metastatic disease.
when to get a mammogram
There's a lot of confusion out there about when and how often to get a mammogram. For now, the recommendation is that women get a mammogram once a year, beginning at age 40. If you're at high risk for breast cancer, with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or have had radiation treatment to the chest in the past, it's recommended that you start having annual mammograms at a younger age (often beginning around age 30). This, however, is something that you should discuss with your health care provider.
For more information please visit endtheconfusion.org
Ask if your center has CAD — computer-aided detection — a tool that assists the radiologist in finding any areas of concern that need further attention.
- If you’ve been referred for a mammogram because of a suspicious lump or a finding on another test, make sure your doctor includes a detailed note as to why the mammogram has been ordered. For example, if the doctor felt a lump in the upper portion of the breast, closer to the underarm, the note might say, “palpable mass in the upper outer quadrant, left breast, rule out abnormality.” Be prepared to talk about previous unusual findings or symptoms with the technologist who performs the mammogram.