Breast cancer screening | Mammograms Types, Uses, Preparation

Breast cancer screening is a test conducted on a healthy person to detect cancer in the breast before the beginning of its signs and symptoms. It is not used to treat cancer but to find the different types of cancer for treatment.

It has proven very helpful in early cancer diagnosis and has saved many lives. The most common breast cancer screening test is the mammogram. It is an x-ray test of a patient’s breast; it is the best way to find cancer, even in the most diminutive form.

Types of mammograms:

There are three major types of mammograms.

  1. Film mammograms
  2. Digital mammograms
  3. Digital breast tomosynthesis

1. Film mammograms:

Film mammograms are a convenient way of taking breast pictures. In this mammography, x-rays are used to get a picture of the breast, and the picture becomes a deposit in film.

2. Digital mammograms:

Digital mammograms are an advanced way of diagnosing breast cancer, and it has also replaced film mammograms. In this mammography, x-rays take a two-dimensional picture of the breast. It takes photos in the form of an electronic image seen on a computer and can easily be shared.

3. Digital breast tomosynthesis:

Digital breast tomosynthesis is the most advanced type of mammography, called 3D mammography. The breast is compressed under the machine, and the x-rays take three-dimensional pictures of the breast. In this mammography, a series of pictures are taken from different angles. Then computer compiles all the pictures so the doctors can easily see the 3D dimensional images of the breast tissues. This type of mammography has proven very impactful in detecting the smallest forms of cancer and lowered false-positive test results.

Uses of mammograms:

Mammograms are used for screening or diagnostic purposes.

1. Screening mammogram:

A screening mammogram is used to detect cancerous substances early in the breast. It uses the conventional way of taking pictures of substances.

2. Diagnostic mammograms:

Diagnostic is used to investigate the changes in the breast, either the presence of a new lump or any nipple changes. It uses the advanced way of taking pictures of the breast.

Preparation for the mammograms:

Before conducting the test, you need to prepare for the mammography.

  • Try to avoid mammography during your menstrual cycling days. The breast tissue becomes tender, making the procedure more difficult.
  • Bring your previous test results before the conduction of the mammography.
  • Avoid perfumes, deodorants, lotions, and creams on your armpit and breast.

Conduction of the mammograms:

During the conduction of the mammogram, you will be asked to follow the following steps:

  • You will be directed to remove any jewelry or extra clothes to conduct the test properly.
  • Your technologist will direct you to stand in front of the x-ray machines, and you will be asked to place your breast on the plates of the devices to detect the presence of the cancerous substances.
  • The machine will apply the pressure on your breast and be compressed between the plates. Pressure will be applied for almost 3-5 seconds to allow the penetration of the x-rays in your breast.
  • X-rays will make the breast images on the computer and will highlight the presence of the cancerous substances.
  • If you want the mammography of the other breast, then the whole procedure will be repeated.
  • Once the x-ray is taken, your technologist can ask you to wait until the images are collected then you can dress yourself up.
  • This procedure is not harmful, but it can discomfort you. You can ask your technologist to decrease the level of pressure for comfort.
  • The whole mammography process takes 15-20 minutes to detect breast cancer.

Results of the mammogram:

The result of the mammography is received after 2-3 weeks. The radiologist keenly observes the images from x-rays and then prepares the report. Your reports will tell your doctor about the presence of glandular tissues, fibrous, and breast density. Then your doctor will tell you whether you have cancer or not.

Benefits of the breast cancer screening:

Breast cancer screening has the following benefits:

  • Breast cancer screening has proven very beneficial in the early detection of cancer.
  • It also makes the treatment of cancer more manageable.
  • It has also proven impactful in decreasing the number of cancer deaths.
  • Women get cured easily by diagnosing cancer at the earliest possible stage.

Risks of the breast cancer screening:

Besides the benefits of breast cancer screening, it also has some harmful effects. The risks of the breast cancer screening are listed below:

1. False-positive test:

Breast cancer screening sometimes can show abnormal results even if the tissues are normal; as a result, radiologist picks something that looks like cancer, but in reality, it is normal tissue. Then your doctor can advise you on further tests like a biopsy, which is expensive and harmful at the same time. This result commonly occurs in younger women, women with multiple biopsies, and women with a genetic history of cancer.

2. False-negative test:

When breast screening test results in normal, even the cancerous substances are present in the breast, then the result is called a false negative. As a result, the patient remains unaware of his medical situation, and his treatment gets delayed, leading to death. This result commonly occurs in women with denser breast tissues and in those women whose cancer is overgrowing.

3. Over diagnosing:

Some breast tissues are not dangerous to health, but breast cancer screening can pick them up as a cancerous substance. It becomes challenging to identify whether they will grow or not; as a result, they are also treated, which creates serious side effects in the patient’s body.

4. Radiation exposure:

During breast cancer screening, the breast is exposed to x-rays and other harmful radiations. But the dosage of these radiations is very low, so they cannot harm the skin. But the, repeated exposure to this harmful radiation can increase the risk of cancer in the patient.

5. Missing the cancerous substances:

Breast cancer screening can also miss the cancerous substances. It cannot find by screening if it is too small or present in any other areas of the breast.

References:

  • https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/screening.htm
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mammogram/about/pac-20384806
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/4877-mammogram
  • https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-screening-pdq#:~:text=Mammography%20is%20the%20most%20common,use%20depends%20on%20certain%20factors.
  • https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/breast-cancer/getting-diagnosed/screening/breast-screening
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