Dr. Shelly Sharma
Mammography is the procedure of obtaining X-ray picture of breasts. It is a reliable and universally accepted test for early detection of breast cancer (screening) as well as for diagnosis of breast complaints. It can help doctors find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.
Mammography machine is a special X-ray machine, which has a plate to place your breast on and another plate to compress it. The breast is sandwiched between the two plates and two views of each breast are obtained. Most women find mammograms appalling and complain that these are painful. What one needs to understand is this discomfort of few minutes may actually save their lives by detecting cancer early. The breast compression is done to prevent movement of breasts and to obtain good quality images. The amount of discomfort one feels varies from person to person and it also depends on the size of breasts. However the good news is the newer mammography machines have various mechanisms incorporated to reduce the discomfort. Incase you have concerns about pain , discuss it with the technologist.
The best time to undergo mammograms is with in first ten days of your periods. Your breasts may be more tender and sensitive during your periods, so better to do it after finishing periods. If you think you maybe pregnant , you should not undergo mammography. Mammography can be done for both female and male breasts. A doctor may order a mammogram for males incases of breast swelling or abnormal discharge from the nipple. This test helps the doctor in diagnosing the reason for breast complaints which maybe due to breast cancer also in few cases.
Mammograms are read by breast radiologists, who then give the report detailing the findings. The mammography results maybe normal, in that case you should continue getting regular mammograms at recommended intervals. If your mammography result is abnormal, do not panic, as an abnormal mammogram does not always mean that there is cancer. But you may need to undergo additional investigations like ultrasound, Breast MRI or breast biopsy before the doctor can tell for sure. You may also be referred to a breast specialist or a surgeon for further evaluation. These doctors are experts in diagnosing breast problems and sometimes may decide to do follow-up tests to diagnose breast cancer or to find that there is no cancer. You should follow the protocol suggested by your radiologist and treating doctor and do the follow up examinations at recommended intervals.
Tips for Getting a Mammogram
- Do not get a mammogram if you are pregnant or think you maybe.
- Go for digital mammogram, preferably at a centre with 3D mammography.
- Always take your previous mammograms and other breast investigations.
- Don’t wear deodorant, perfume, or talc powder at least for 2-3 days before and on day of your mammogram. These can show up as white spots on the X-ray and give false results.
- Wear comfortable clothes preferably two piece like jeans and top as the clothes above the waist needs to be removed for mammography.
This information is for general guidance and reflects the opinions and experience of the author. It is not intended to replace specialist consultation or provide treatment advice for specific cases.