All you need to know about Mammograms

All you need to know about Mammograms

A mammogram is the best tool a doctor can use to detect early signs of Breast Cancer. At an early stage, Breast Cancer does not cause any pain and may have no eye-catching symptoms. Early detection can make a significant difference in how effective cancer treatment can be and a Mammogram is the best test we have, that’s proven to increase a woman’s chance of detecting breast cancer. As such, for many women, a mammogram is considered as the first line of defence against breast cancer.

1] Start screening at age 35 the symptoms may be silent

Yes, mammography should be a part of a woman’s general health exam starting at age 35. Why 35? Because before 35, breast tissues tend to be denser, making mammography less effective as a screening tool. In addition, the risk of radiation outweighs the likelihood of detecting breast cancer. The two-dimensional X-ray of the breast is highly effective in detecting cancer long before a lump may be felt.

Women who are a carrier of the genetic mutation need to be more alert. Most women who have a mother, sister or grandmother who had cancer at a young age are advised to speak with a Breast Consultant before a mammogram.

2] How much radiation is too much?

We are exposed to radiation when we fly/ when we get medical treatments and even when we leave the house. Too much radiation can have drastic effects and cause cancer. But people fail to ask and understand – how much is too much?

A mammogram is a test to detect cancer and controls of the amount of radiation exposure harmful to a patient. Hence, the exposure during a mammogram s only a very small measure. On average, the total dose of radiation for a mammogram with two views of each breast is about 0.4 mSv (Millisievert-mSv is a unit of radiation dose) and hence the test is relatively safe.

  • We receive no more than 3 mSv of exposure per year from natural background radiation.
  • Exposure greater than 3mSv to 20 mSv is considered moderate.
  •  Greater than 20 mSv is considered HIGH.

The radiation during a mammogram is regulated well, by the mammographer, to the imaged breast but still, some X-Rays scatter away from the primary beam and comes in contact with the rest of the body. These radiations are called scattered radiations. These rays spread outward in different directions and are assumed to be unsafe. However, as a mammogram contains such a low-dose of x-ray, it is considered as negligible.

Pall Mall Medical owns its very own state-of-the-art Hologic Selenia® Dimensions® 3D Digital Mammography machine, which emits less radiation per examination than other mammography machines. One less thing to worry about.

3] Suspicious mammograms

After a routine mammogram screen, if you are told that an abnormality was found and you need to visit for further testing, don’t worry. An abnormal mammogram is not necessarily CANCER. It could be a liquid cyst or solid lump. Cysts are fluid-filled masses in the breast. It may feel like a lump but on examination, it is just a small harmless sac filled with fluid. Cysts and tumours can feel the same and even look the same on a mammogram. To be sure that the mass is a normal cyst, either an ultrasound or a biopsy is often recommended. The Breast Consultant can guide you through this pathway.

Mammograms may produce false negatives. As at times, cancer is hidden by other dense tissues in the breast and cannot be seen. Lobular cancer also has a growth pattern that produces shadows on a mammogram and gets merged with normal breast tissues and affects the reading efficiency.

4] Go clear for error-free readings

Use of deodorants, powder, lotions, creams underarms or breast may lead to incorrect readings on a mammogram. This is because the metallic particles present in these products may be visible, distracting the actual images. Therefore, it is advisable not to wear these products for a more accurate diagnosis.

5] Discomforts

Most women feel slight discomfort during a mammogram. The pressure of the testing equipment against the breast may cause pain, which is normal. This part lasts only for a few minutes. Occasionally, some women feel extreme pain during the test. The intensity of pain differs for everyone depending on:

xe2x80xa2 Breast Size: yes, breast size matters in pain and also affects the mammograms. If a woman has dense breast tissue, it can be very hard to get a successful mammogram

xe2x80xa2 Schedule: tenderness in the breast varies before and after your menstrual cycle. A week before your periods, the breasts will be most tender and may cause more pain during a mammogram. So scheduling your test during the week after your period is more favourable to avoid pain.

xe2x80xa2 Equipment: the pressure against your breasts from the testing equipment can cause pain or discomfort and that’s normal. The pain from this only lasts for a few minutes.

For more information on Mammograms at Pall Mall Medical, please contact our Imaging Department on 0330 058 44 55 or email

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