Understanding Mammograms

A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast.

Mammograms are designed to check for very early signs of breast cancer in women before the symptoms can be experienced. Mammograms are better when used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. This type of mammogram is called a screening or preventive mammogram. Screening mammograms usually involve two mammogram pictures, or images, of each breast. These images are carefully read by a radiologist to detect tumors that cannot be felt by Self Breast Exam. Screening mammograms can also find microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium) that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.

MammogramDiagnostic Mammograms are used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of the disease has been found. Unfortunately, at this point, the mammogram is only used to confirm the diagnosis. This is the commonest mammogram ordered by physicians in Kenya and the rest of Africa.

Besides a lump or breast disfigurement, signs of breast cancer can include breast pain, thickening of the skin of the breast, nipple discharge, or a change in breast size, shape or colour. Only a mammogram or breast ultrasound can determine if this is breast cancer or not. A diagnostic mammogram can also be used to evaluate changes found during a screening mammogram.

The difference between screening and diagnostic mammogram is that diagnostic mammography takes longer than screening mammography because more x-rays are needed to obtain views of the breast from several angles. The radiologist or radiographer may magnify a suspicious area to produce a detailed picture that can help make an accurate diagnosis.

Screening mammograms helps in early detection of breast cancer, which means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread to other parts of the body. Screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer by 30-40% among women ages 40 to 70. Unless family history of breast cancer exists, breast mammograms are only recommended after age 40.

If you have any questions about your breast health condition, call us now. Let us help you clear the doubts that you may have. We have nurse educators and clinicians ready to help you with the answers you need to stay safe from breast cancer

If you would like to share your breast cancer story, email your story on Microsoft word to cancerfreewomen[at]gmail.com.

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