Mammography is a medical procedure you can take, despite them being expensive, and it’s like an x-ray but for your breasts. Today, we will be telling you what a mammogram actually is, how it works, and signs you need to get one!.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is, essentially, an x-ray examination of the breasts. It’s function is to detect and diagnose breast disease in women who have breast problems, such as a breast lump, breast pain, and nipple discharge, but women who have no breast problems can also get a mammogram to check the condition of their breasts. Mammograms can detect breast cancer, benign tumours, and cysts in the breasts before they can be detected by touching. While mammograms cannot prove that an abnormality in the breast is cancer, it can raise the suspicion of cancer and some breast tissue will be removed for examination to identify if it’s cancer.
There are two types of mammograms, screening mammogram and diagnostic mammogram. A screening mammogram works like an x-ray, and is generally done to detect any breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Often this mammogram takes 2 x-rays of each breast, meaning 4 x-rays in total. With a mammogram, it’s possible to detect tumours that cannot be felt.
A diagnostic mammogram works like a screening mammogram, but it’s designed to diagnose unusual breast changes, like lumps in the breast, breast pain, nipple thickening or unusual nipple discharge, or even a change in the shape of the breast. It can also evaluate abnormalities detected in the screening mammogram.
How does it work?
The mammography machines are designed to only look at breast tissue by using lower doses of x-rays compared to the normal x-rays used to look at your bones. There are 2 plates on the mammography machine that compress the breast to spread the tissue apart, so that the mammogram is a high quality picture and less radiation is used to take the mammogram.
What is the procedure?
First, you will stand in front of the mammography machine. The technologist, who is the one handling the machine, will place your breast on a plastic plate. Another plate will then press on your breast from above, and flatten your breast while holding it still while the x-ray is being. You will feel pressure on your breast during this part of the procedure. The steps are then repeated to get a side view of the breast, and then the other breast will be x-rayed the same way. You will have to for a bit after that, so that the technologist can check the pictures and make sure they do not need to be redone. Unfortunately the technologist isn’t able to tell you the results of your mammogram.
Signs you need a mammogram
While it is often said that you should get your first mammogram at the age of 40 or 50, there are some signs you may need one earlier.
If you feel that there is a lump in your breast, it would be best to go to a doctor to check it out and arrange for a mammogram. While a lot of the time a lump in the breast could just mean a benign cyst in the breast, it could also be a sign of a cancerous tumour in your breast.
Changes in breast size
While it’s normal for the breasts to change sizes over time due to hormones, if you find that there is a drastic change in size or shape in one or both of your breasts, then you should schedule for a mammogram as it could be macromastia, cancer, or other breast problems.
One thing to take note of is that the only thing that your nipples should discharge is milk. If you find that your nipples are discharging something else other than milk, including blood, then you should arrange for a mammogram. Other signs you should look out for are the nipples reddening, flaky skin on the nipples, or pulling in of the nipples.
Swelling of the breasts
Swelling or thickening of the breasts isn’t normal and is a cause for concern. If you find that your breasts are reddening, irritated, hot, or the skin is dimpling, then you will need to arrange for a mammogram.
Pain in the breasts
While some pain is normal due to hormones, such as right before or during menstruation, what isn’t normal is if your breasts hurt a majority of the time for no reason. Some breast cancer patients do not face abnormalities in the breasts, but instead feel pain in the breasts, so it’s best to get a mammogram if your breasts hurt randomly for no reason.
While not everyone needs a mammogram, if you find strange abnormalities in your breasts, or you simply want to check on the condition of your breasts, then it’s a good idea to get a mammogram.
Need more informational reads? Check out how often you need to change your bras according to experts!