Information courtesy of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Mammography is an X-ray technique used to study the breasts. It can help find breast cancer at an early stage (when treatment is more likely to succeed). About 1in 8 women will get breast cancer during their lives. Most cases of breast cancer occur in women who are past menopause. By age 40 years, mammography should be a regular part of your health care.

Your Breasts

Your breasts are made up of glands, fat and thickened (fibrous) tissue. They respond to changes in levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone during your monthly menstrual cycle. Hormones change amount of fluid in the breast. This may make fibrous areas in the breast more painful.

Your breasts will change during pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. You may notice changes if you use hormonal contraception (birth control) or hormone therapy. Even if you have breast implants, there can be changes in your breasts.

What is Mammography?

Mammography is a simple X-ray process. It passes low doses of X-rays through the breasts. No dyes have to be injected or swallowed, and no instruments will be put in your body.

Some growths are very small or lie deep in the breast tissue. These growths can be hard to detect. Some growths are benign (not cancer); others may be malignant (cancer). Mammography is a good way to find cancerous growths before they are large enough to be felt. When cancer is found in this early stage, it is easier to treat. Caught early enough, breast cancer often can be cured.

Mammography also is useful for checking growths that have been felt during a physical exam by a health care provider or a breast self-exam. it can be done in a health care provider’s office, a clinic, a mobile screening van or a hospital. Your health care provider can order the test. It is done by an X-ray technician trained in mammography. The results then are read by a specially trained doctor (radiologist).

No matter where the test is done, you should get a report of the results from the radiologist or your health care provider. Ask your health care provider about anything you do not understand.

Who Should Have Mammography?

Women aged 40 Years and older should have mammography done every year. If you have certain risk factors, your health care provider may suggest you have the test at a younger age.

  • You also may need mammography if you have any of these signs:
  • Unexplained lump or thickening in the breast or in the armpit
  • Puckers, dimples, redness or other changes int eh skin of the breast
  • Discharge or bleeding that comes from the nipple
  • A Recent change in the nipple, such as a retracted nipple (a nipple that has pulled inward)

If any of these signs apply to you, talk to your health care provider about having a physical exam and mammography.

Mammography is vital for all women, especially women aged 40 years and older. The size of your breasts does not matter. Whether you have breast implants does not matter. Women who have had breast cancer surgery also may need mammography and other tests to check any breast tissue that remains an ultrasound exam may be done first in younger women w ho are found to have a lump in their breasts.

Risk Factors

Most women who get breast cancer have no risk factors except age – as a woman gets older, her risk increases (up to age 80 years). However, if a woman has any of the following risk factors, she may be at increased risk for developing breast cancer:

  • Certain genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) passed on from her parents
  • Breast cancer in her mother, daughter or sister
  • No term pregnancies or pregnancy later in life (older than age 30 years)
  • Early menstruation (younger than age 12 years)
  • Late menopause (older than age 55 years)
  • Never breastfed a child

These factors also may increase the risk of breast cancer for some women:

  • Personal history of cancer of the breast, endometrium, ovary or colon
  • Postmenopausal obesity
  • Alcohol intake
  • Recent hormone therapy
  • Recent use of birth control pills
  • Tall stature
  • Jewish heritage

Don’t let any risks sneak up on you. Contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.