What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray exam of the breasts to look for changes that are not normal. The results are recorded on x-ray film or directly into a computer for a doctor called a radiologist to examine. This x-ray allows the doctor to look for abnormal changes in breast tissue that cannot be felt during a physical exam.
How is a mammogram performed?
While standing in front of a special x-ray machine, your breasts are placed between two plates which compress the breast in order to obtain the clearest photo possible. The compression can be uncomfortable for some women but only lasts a short time. The entire duration of a mammogram takes about 20 minutes.
What are the benefits of a mammogram?
Mammograms can detect abnormal growths in your breasts such as:
- Lump or mass. The size, shape, and edges of a lump sometimes can give doctors information about whether or not it may be cancer. On a mammogram, a growth that is benign often looks smooth and round with a clear, defined edge. Breast cancer often has a jagged outline and an irregular shape.
- Calcification. A calcification is a deposit of the mineral calcium in the breast tissue. Calcifications appear as small white spots on a mammogram. There are two types:
- Macrocalcifications are large calcium deposits often caused by aging. These usually are not a sign of cancer.
- Microcalcifications are tiny specks of calcium that may be found in an area of rapidly dividing cells.
Detecting abnormalities early allows you to be proactive in the prevention or treatment of disease or cancer.
How often should I get a mammogram?
Women ages 50-74 years old should get a mammogram every 2 years (biannually). While Dr. Davis does not perform mammograms in his office, he highly recommends you have yours done regularly.