Getting a mammogram is an important part of the health of all women around the world.
For some it is essential to detect something is wrong. For others, it is a necessary precaution. In it’s most basic definition, it is a screening tool which determines whether you are suffering from cancer or not.
It is done in conjecture with some other treatments and when done on time, it can play a major role in saving your life.
Did you know that breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer after skin cancer. Unfortunately the cases have been on a steady rise. There have been 230,000 new cases in women just in the US.
And with a global number, it is even scarier. The cases keep on getting stronger and one safe bet you can count on is getting a mammogram from a place which is reputable and well-organized.
This means that if you are able to get a screening on time, you can save your life.
There are certain confusion and doubt regarding this treatment. In this blog, I am going to give you all the information that you need regarding getting a mammogram, how it it done, what do the results help determine, debunking myths and why it is one of the most important screenings to not to be ignored.
Let’s start off:
Why is Getting a Mammogram Essential?
Considering the number of cases and how they continue to escalate, the fact of the matter is that getting a mammogram has become a major need for today’s day and time.
Women who are 40 years and above must get a mammogram every 1-2 years.
While it is medically suggested that the screening should begin at the age of 45 years old’s, the fact of the matter is that in today’s day and age, you should get screening done on a regular basis to ensure that the treatment is provided in a timely manner if there is some problem detected.
If you have a regular doctor, he too can suggest if you should have routine test. This is screening mammogram and in it, different pictures and X-rays are done of your breast.
That is the first step, a regular method of screening. However if your doctor notices that something is not right. Like if a lump has been detected, or there is some symptom of breast cancer, then that means that things are much more serious.
This is when you will be advised to get a diagnostic mammogram. This is a more extensive and detailed screening method.
In this, the breast has many X-rays done so to get its pictures from different angles and positions, with areas of doubt getting a more magnified look.
So many women who need to go for screening mammogram, get even worries about how to prepare for that even. Let’s talk about a few guidelines you need to follow on the day of your mammogram screening.
Preparing for a Mammogram
When it comes to preparing yourself, the first thing you need to do is remain calm. It can be an overwhelming experience but it is essential and you need to have it done.
Try to practice some breathing exercises to keep your mind at ease. Wear losing fitting clothes. This is very important.
Also it is best if you don’t put on any perfumes and body powders. Have a bath and keep your body free from any skin treatments.
This is because they can distort the images. Sometimes there can be residual left and this looks like calcification which are calcium deposits. It impacts the diagnosis process so it is best to avoid them completely.
You should also tell your doctor if you are pregnant or are breastfeeding at that time. In such cases, getting a screening becomes hard but your doctor can suggest you get an ultrasound.
It probably won’t give very precise and accurate images but the results are still considerable.
So what exactly happens during the screening process? Let’s get into the practical end of that:
What Happens In a Mammogram?
There isn’t must involved. It is simply done. All you have to do is undress from the waist up. There should be no jewelry on you.
In most testing facilities, the pictures are taken while you are standing up, but in some cases, you can be sitting too.
The breast is put onto a flat X-ray plate. A compressor is used as it pushed the breast down to make the tissue flat.
This is where the uncomfortable feeling lies. It can also be painful but it is essential. Doing so provides a much clearer picture of the breast.
But this discomfort that you are feeling , goes away as well once the mammogram is completed.
As the process is being done, your doctor will look into the results and determine what more has to be done. Sometimes a few images gives them a clear indication of whether something is wrong or not. However in other cases, your doctor will need additional images.
It is common to have more images needed. It shouldn’t be cause of anxiety and worry.
Nowadays for women who are above 50 years and have denser breasts, doctors opt for a treatment which makes use of digital mammogram.
The best thing about it, is that the images come up quickly and there is no waiting period in the same.
However in any case, once the mammogram screening is done, you just need to put your clothes back on. And wait for the results to kick in.
Let me now walk you through on what the results can actually mean?
Getting the Readings and Results
So basically the images of the breasts are used to determine if there are any calcifications or calcium deposits in the breasts.
This can happen in either one of them or even both.
But don’t worry= calcification doesn’t directly mean you have cancer. The pictures can also show cysts but these again don’t necessarily mean cancerous. They are fluid-filled and sometimes come and go during a women’s menstruation period.
The national diagnostic system for reading mammograms is called BI-RADS.
This is a national level and database system and it comes with 6 categories of readings. These categories have been set in an international level and are the same everywhere, making it easy for doctors worldwide to determine the results according to patients.
Each category describes what has been seen and what additional procedures and treatments need to be followed.
Your doctor will sit you down and explain which category your results fall in and what is the next plan of action.
So now that you know quite a lot about getting a mammogram and how it works, I also want to debunk and bust out a few myths which are commonly circulated around.
Busting Mammogram Myths
So worried about getting a mammogram and heard stories on how it works. Let’s call spade a spade and debunk stories from the actual facts. So here it goes:
Myth1- Mammograms can not help a lot as sometimes results can be unclear.
Fact- Not true. Having a mammogram is a life-saving decision. It is one of the most tried and tested and recommended procedure by the doctors. It can detect terminal breast cancer earlier and save your life.
Myth2- Don’t get mammograms often. They can actually be a cause for cancer.
Fact- Now isn’t that something. Mammograms don’t cause cancer. They actually make use of very small amounts of radiation to give results. They are similar in process like getting an X-ray. So you can make use of them.
Myth3-Mammograms can give inaccurate results.
Fact-While it is possible that results are not perfect but they are still your best best and tool to make use of when an early detection is needed. This is especially important in the case of those cases where none of the symptoms of breast cancer come into view.
Myth4- Mammograms are extremely painful.
Fact-We have talked about this already. They are not painful but they do provide a sense of discomfort which can be more in some as compared to others. However this too only lasts during the compression phase. It gives a temporary discomfort which eventually goes away.
To Sum It Up
I hope this article brought you a complete overview on how mammography is done. It is one of the most essential processes that gives you amazing results and is essential in identifying if there are any problems or concerns you should know of.
The fact of the matter is that getting a mammogram especially when you are over forty years of age, helps to detect any abnormalities.
Aside from pointing out how a mammogram is done and how its results can be taken into consideration, this blog post also pointed out some of the most common myths out there and how they are far from the truth. We debunked the myths and pointed out the facts as well.
Get a mammogram and you can thank us later as it might do you more good than ever.