What You Need to Know about Mammograms

With most diseases, including breast cancer, early detection can mean the difference between survival and death. Mammograms are one of the first steps in detecting breast cancer.

Image of woman

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a type of x-ray that is taken of a woman’s breasts. There are two kinds: screening and diagnostic.

Screening mammograms are used for preventative purposes on women who do not show any signs of breast cancer.

Diagnostic mammograms are used on patients who do show signs of breast cancer such as inflammation, lumps, or dimpling.

Mammograms can be captured digitally, on film and in 3D. The use of digital mammograms enables the radiologist examining your x-ray to zoom-in on areas of the image that they may find concerning and may otherwise have missed on film. 3D mammography allows for different sections within the breast to be scanned for a clearer view of what’s going on within the breast from different angles.

When should I get my first mammogram?

According to American Cancer Society, women who are not at risk for breast cancer should get their first mammogram at the age of 50 and continue getting them annually. However, not one ‘size’ fits all.

Women who have had a female relative who had breast cancer after the age of 50 should start getting their mammograms every six months, starting at age 45.

Women who have the BRCA gene should start mammogram screening around the ages of 25-30 because they are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those who don’t have it.

Keep in mind that these are only guidelines, not rules. If you and your doctor find that it is necessary to get a mammogram, it should be completed right away.

The more mammograms, the better?

Mammograms expose women to radiation and should be done as sparingly as possible and only when your physician recommends it. Radiation exposure does put a woman at higher risk of breast cancer, however the benefits of a mammogram far outweigh any possible harm.

If you’re showing signs of breast cancer or if you fall within the recommended age brackets, contact South Bay Ob/Gyn in West Islip, NY at 631.587.2100 to set an appointment.

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