What is Mammography?

By  , Expert Content
Oct 04, 2012

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What is Mammography

Mammography or mammogramis a specific type of imaging study (X-ray) which is useful for detecting breast diseases, especially breast cancer in early stage. An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive and painless medical test that is helpful for diagnosis and treatment of several medical conditions. During an x-ray the part to be tested is exposed to a small dose of ionising radiation to produce pictures of tissues and organs inside of the body. It is oldest and most commonly used type of medical imaging. A major concern with xrays is exposure to radiation but mammography can be used as a screening test for breast cancer as the amount of x-ray exposure during mammography is limited.


[Read: How Can One Prepare for Mammography?]


Mammogram is done with a special kind of imaging machine. It uses low-dose X-ray beams to examine the breasts for abnormality. As mammography detects breast cancer in early stages the cancer is likely to be smaller, with limited spread to lymph nodes and adjacent tissue and more likely to be responsive to treatment as compared to cancers detected by women through self-examination. A mammogram can either be screening or diagnostic mammograms.


  • Screening mammogram: When the mammogram is done before a woman has signs or symptoms of the disease it is called screening mammogram.According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of United States of America screening mammograms should be done every 1 to 2 years for women more than 40 years of age and in women younger than 40 who are at higher than average risk for developing breast cancer. During screening mammograms the x-ray pictures, or images, of each breast is taken. The x-ray images can help to detect small tumours that cannot be felt by manual palpation. Microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium) can also be seen on screening mammograms which sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.


  • Diagnostic mammogram: If the mammogram is done to look for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of the breast disease is present it is called diagnostic mammogram. Some of the common signs and symptoms of breast cancer are pain, skin thickening, discharge from nipple, presence of lump or a change in size or shape of breast. However these signs and symptoms do not necessarily indicate a malignant or cancerous growth as benign conditions can also have similar symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a diagnostic mammogram to confirm or assess changes found during a screening mammogram, or if doing a screening mammogram is difficult because of special circumstances, such as the presence of breast implants. [Read: How is Mammography Done?]


Digital mammography and computer-aided detection are recent advances in mammography. Mammography is useful for not only detecting breast disease but can also in selecting the right form of treatment and has helped to save many lives.


Read more article on Understand Mammography




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