A Memo About Mammograms

To maintain a clean bill of health, we all must endure some rather unpleasant routine exams.  If you ask any woman, she’d likely agree that mammograms are high on that list!  Alas, when it’s a matter of a potential life-saving screening test, we must put on our big girl pants and submit our breasts to the squashing and cold metal plates. Here are some quick facts to help better prepare you:

There are two types of mammograms: screening mammograms obtain a baseline breast appearance and monitor any changes through the years.  This is a preventive test and and the type of exam most women receive annually; diagnostic mammograms are ordered by the physician when a potential abnormality is noted on a screening mammogram to take more detailed images to determine whether a breast biopsy is indicated.

There are three types of mammography techniques: A film-screen mammogram uses black and white pictures produced on large pieces of film.  Digital mammograms are transferred to a computer and can be enlarged for a more detailed look.  The most recent mammogram technology is 3-D mammography (also called breast tomosynthesis) that offers a 3-dimensional view of the breast.  Depending on your age, the density of your breast tissue and whether you’re pre-, peri- or post-menopausal, Dr. Brady can recommend which technique is best suited for you.

Dr. Brady notes that over the years, some of her patients have voiced concerns about the potential of radiation exposure during their screening mammogram.  She reassures patients that the exposure is minuscule and, per the American Cancer Society, mimics the radiation exposure received on a cross-country flight on a commercial airline.  The risk of developing breast cancer (about 1 in 8 women) is significantly higher than any long-term radiation exposure from mammograms.

Other important tips to keep in mind:

1) Make sure your mammogram facility is approved by the FDA and that the radiologist reading your results is board certified and experienced.
2) The radiologist should always compare your current mammogram film to any previous images so that visible changes are more apparent.
3) Never wear deodorant, perfume or body lotion to your mammogram appointment to reduce shadows in the films.
4) Schedule your mammogram right after your menstrual cycle when the breast tissue is less tender with less swelling and fewer cysts.
5) Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Advil or Tylenol one hour before your appointment time.

The official guidelines on how often screening mammograms should be performed vary within the medical community.  Dr. Brady can consult with you, obtain an accurate personal and family history and recommend a mammogram screening schedule that suits your individual needs.  We've counseled countless Dallas women on the appropriate approach to mammograms and are more than happy to assist you as well!

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