The American Cancer Society recommends that women who are 40 years of age and older have a yearly screening for breast cancer. Women who have a history of breast cancer in their family can begin having mammograms as early as their 20s.
What is a Mammography?
Mammography is a low-dose x-ray screening which can detect breast cancer even in its early stages. Breast cancer which is caught early is the most curable.
Scheduling a Mammogram
When you schedule your mammogram, the American Cancer Society recommends that you do not schedule it during the week leading up to your menstrual cycle. Women’s breasts may be more tender during this time, and the x-ray may be uncomfortable for them. They also recommend that you do not wear any lotions or deodorants the day of the mammogram. These topical treatments may show up as spots on the x-ray.
Day of the Mammogram
When you arrive at the office or clinic, you should look to see if they have an updated copy of the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) displayed. Most facilities will have this certificate within easy view. However, if you do not see it, ask to see it. The MQSA is required by the FDA, as it is a certificate that is given to practices that meet the current standards and guidelines for mammography.
Before the mammogram, you will be asked to disrobe from the waist up and to take off any jewelry you may be wearing. You will be positioned in the mammography unit in such a way that your breast will be placed on a pedestal and then compressed with a plastic paddle. The compression evens out the breast’s thickness so that all tissues are spread out evenly. The entire process generally takes no more than thirty minutes for both breasts. However, it may have to be repeated if images are not clear.
If you are thinking of putting off mammography, you should know that more than 75% of all breast cancers begin in the milk ducts. Lumps can grow there for up to ten years before they are felt through self-examination. Mammography can identify these tumors before they are found by you, and before you have symptoms of cancer. A report put out by The New England Journal of Medicine states that mammography has played a major role in the decrease of breast cancer related deaths in the last 30 years.
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