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Breast Cancer Screening – Mammography FAQ’s

India has over 90000 women dying of Breast Cancer every year. Most importantly 70% of the cases are detected in the 3rd or 4th stage. These statistics make the aspect of early detection and early treatment important.

What is Breast Cancer screening?

  • It is a way through which doctors test the breasts for early signs of cancer. The main test used for the screening is Mammography- an X Ray technique. This is usually combined with breast exams by a doctor/nurse.

Studies show that being screened for Brest Cancer lowers the chance that a woman will die of the disease.

 Who should be screened for Breast Cancer- by Mammography?

Experts recommend screening most women aged 50-70 yrs. However women who have a higher risk of developing Breast Cancer should be screened early – at 40 yrs of age. These include the ones that :

  • Carry genes that increase their risk of cancer – BRCA genes
  • Have close relatives who got Breast Cancer at a young age

One should consult a doctor on screening.

 

 

 What happens during a mammogram?

  • Before a mammogram you will be requested to undress from the waist up and put a hospital gown. Then your breasts are X-Rayed one at a time. Each breast is X-rayed twice- top down and side to side. This is important so that the Radiologist can have a good look at the breast tissues. To make the X-ray view better, the nurse will flatten the breasts between two panels. This can be a bit uncomfortable but it lasts for a few seconds. If possible don’t schedule your appointment during your menstrual periods as breasts are extra sensitive at that time. Also don’t use an underarm deodorant or powder on the day of your appointment.

 What happens after a mammogram?

  • A report is made by the radiologist. Don’t ignore follow up. Ensure that the reports are normal. If not discuss with the doctor.

 What if my mammogram is abnormal?

  • If your mammogram is abnormal, DON’T PANIC. 9/10 abnormal reports turn out NOT to be breast cancer. If your doctor also thinks that it’s not cancer, he/she might suggest another test after 6 months. If he/she thinks otherwise you may be advised to go through few other tests to be sure – Ultrasound of the breasts, biopsy (take samples of the breast tissue).

 Is an MRI better than a Mammogram?

  • Breast MRI’s give more false positives than compared to Mammography. They are still recommended for high risk young women. Women who are at a lower risk are not recommended MRI.

 How often should I have a Mammogram?

  • Screening after every 2 years is recommended for most women. Frequent testing might be recommended to high risk women.

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