Breast Cancer Awareness Month

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. There are two main types of mammograms: screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms. A screening mammogram is done to check for breast cancer in a woman who has no signs or symptoms of the disease. If a woman has a lump or another sign or symptom of breast cancer (such as nipple discharge, thickening of the skin of the breast, pain in the breast or a change in the breast’s size or shape), the exam is called a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram may also be scheduled to evaluate changes seen on a screening mammogram

Why is it done?

Screening mammography aids in the early detection of breast cancer, when in many cases it is more curable and when breast-conserving therapies are available. Studies show that it can reduce the risk of death from breast cancer for women ages 40 to 74.

Diagnostic mammography is used to evaluate a patient with abnormal clinical findings, such as a breast lump or nipple discharge. It may also be done if a screening mammogram identifies an abnormality or other area of concern.

How to Prepare?

  • Before your exam, obtain your prior mammograms if they were done at a different location, and make them available to the radiologist (they are often available on a CD). The ability to compare your mammogram to previous ones greatly improves the accuracy of the exam.
  • You should have your clinical breast exam (a hands-on exam performed by a health professional) before your mammogram. If you are premenopausal, you should schedule your mammogram for the week following your period to minimize breast tenderness. If you are prone to breast tenderness, you can take a mild pain medication such as ibuprofen (Aleve, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) about an hour before the exam.
  • On the day of your mammogram, do not wear deodorant, lotion or body powder on your chest or underarm areas, because these can create the appearance of calcium spots on the mammogram. Always inform your doctor or X-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant. Also let the doctor or technologist know of any breast symptoms, problems or concerns.

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