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What is mammography?
Mammography is the use of low-energy rays to examine a woman’s breast for diagnosing and screening for breast cancer even before the symptoms start being exhibited. The aim of this procedure is the detection of cancer at the earliest stage possible. It is also referred to as mastography. The x-ray picture of a human breast is called a mammogram.
The types of mammography available
- Traditional mammography : Uses film, similar to routine x-rays. If you opt for a film-screen mammography, the images formed will be black and white on large film sheets.
- Digital mammography: This technique is a newer version of mammography and has been adopted by many cancer centers. The breast imaged produced can be easily displayed on the computer screen. It is mostly used on young ladies with compact breasts but is not as effective as traditional mammography that uses films.
- Screening mammography : This type is a form of digital mammography used for screening when there are no symptoms observed. It helps to curb cancer before it sprouts but can also be misleading because detection of lumps in the breast does not necessarily mean that there is cancer development. The screening can also fail to detect cancer even when it is there and further exposes you to radiation which itself may cause cancer.
How to prepare for the Test
Avoid application of the following products a day before the mammography; deodorants, ointments, powders, and perfumes. These products may blur or alter the mammogram. You are also not supposed to attend the procedure with any jewelry on your chest and neck regions. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is also important to provide this information to the doctor
How mammography is conducted
The first step during a mammography is undressing from the waist up. The device to be used will determine whether the process will be done while you are standing or sited. Equipment called compressor will be used to press each breast at a time so as to flatten the breast. The x-ray pictures are then taken at different angles. During the picture-taking session, you will be asked to hold your breath so as to improve the accuracy of the images.
For guaranteed results, you may be requested to visit again for more mammograms.
Normal and abnormal results
If your breasts show no calcifications, that is considered as normal. On the other hand, if there are masses detected on your breasts, that is considered as abnormal results and further tests ought to be started.
Who is recommended to take the test?
- Women above the age of 50 should take the test annually
- Women between 40 and 50 years should be examined once every two years
- Women whose families have a history of breast cancer should be examined regularly
- Women who have had a false positive detection of cancer
- Women who have symptoms of breast cancer such as lumps and persistent breast pain
What to expect
The level of radiation during a mammography is low compared to other screening options. If you are expecting and need to have an abnormality checked, your belly area will be covered and protected by a lead apron.
Learn more about Mammography