Mammography is the best radiological method that can detect early breast cancer currently available.
It is the ideal and indispensable way to carry out periodic, health-endangering investigations for women aged over 40 and at increased risk of breast cancer.
For women under 40, mammograms are only recommended if there are relevant medical considerations for which the examination would be effective in establishing the diagnosis.
Using a low dose of radiation allows doctors to repeat mammography once a year from the age of 40-50 years. This examination is mandatory for women who have a personal or family history of breast cancer or other organs depending on their age.
Prior to this age, preferred physicians recommend ultrasound because breast tissue at younger age is more dense and there is a risk of a misdiagnosis due to the nodules or pseudo-nodules that appear from the fat. If a person, even after 40 years, has breast-like characteristics below the age of 40, an ultrasound is initially preferred. In the event of suspicion, it is recommended to perform a mammogram.
Some studies have shown that mammography can reduce the death rate by breast cancer by more than one-third.
How is a mammogram performed?
Mammography is performed with a special radiology device called mammography, and compression of the breast is required to obtain optimal exposure.
Film processing and development are rigorously controlled to get the highest quality image.
Mammography is not painful. Some women may have a slight discomfort for the moment, but only during the brisket of the device – the procedure needed to get a clear and precise picture. The slight discomfort is usually experienced by women with smaller breasts, due to the difficulty of catching the breast between the two plates of the device, allowing a clear picture to be made. This pressure does not cause cancer.
Mammograms are used to diagnose structural changes or abnormalities detected by self-examination or clinical examination, and often require more than 2 exposures, being used as screening to detect early, unsound cancer.
To view the internal breast structure, two exposures are made for each breast. The 2 standard projections assume an image with:
– a cranio-caudal (top-down) view that allows a better image of the central and medial breast areas (excluding mammary tissues extending at the level of the axilla);
– Medial-lateral view, which is more important because it shows the entire gland.
Most breast changes are not malignant, and therefore, most women who opt for periodic examinations will not be breast cancer during their breasts.
If mammography is normal, it can be repeated every two years for women aged 40 to 50, and once a year for women over 50 years of age.
What are the abnormal results?
Sometimes radiologists will recommend the resumption of mammography at a few days to thoroughly investigate certain areas of the breast that look great.
One of the situations is the presence of calcified nodules that require examination in terms of the number, size and area they are located along with other features. Sometimes they may indicate the presence of early breast cancer, but they are usually just cysts.
If breast cancer is discovered, there are many therapeutic options, including surgery, radiotherapy, hormonal treatment, and chemotherapy. The therapeutic options are based on each woman and the type and size of breast cancer present. Cancer diagnosis is only provided after a thorough biopsy of the allegedly cancerous tissue.
What are the risks associated with mammography?
The benefits of mammography examination outweigh any potential risks associated with irradiation. Recent studies have estimated that the amount of radiation exposed by the body during mammography examination is less than the cosmic irradiation to which an intercontinental flight passenger is exposed or a skier on a mountain at an altitude of over 3000 of meters.
There are also high-risk situations in performing mammography:
Due to the potential risk of exposure, mammography is not recommended for pregnant women.
For people who have breast implants there is an extremely low chance that the pressure exerted during the procedure causes a rupture or a herniation of the tissue.
For women with a breast implant, the ability to detect abnormalities is 92% to 33%, because implant content (gel or liquid) can block vision, as well as scar tissue around the implant.
False-positive and false-negative results
• False positive results are when mammography shows that there are abnormalities, but they turn out not to be cancer. Most of these false positive results will prove to be negative for cancer. At all ages, 5-10% of mammograms are abnormal and are followed by additional tests (thin needle aspiration, surgical biopsy, or ultrasound).
• False-negative results are when mammography appears to be normal although cancer exists, occurring more often in younger women than in older women.
Does mammography contribute to breast cancer prevention?
Mammography can detect over 85% of breast tumors and results are better if imaging examinations are correlated with physical examinations.