A mammogram is a type of special X-ray that looks closely at your breast tissue. It’s an important screening tool for breast cancer that can detect the presence of cancer, often at early stages.
You may get a mammogram as a standard screening tool or if you have other symptoms that suggest it. The mammogram is sensitive enough that it can often detect cancerous changes before you can feel them. Dr. Alan Patterson of Patterson OBGYN explains more about what mammograms are and what the experience is like.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a special type of X-ray. Your breasts are put on plates, and then you are exposed to a very small amount of radiation. This X-ray looks at your breast tissue and can detect even very tiny amounts of cancerous changes.
It produces images that are looked at more closely by a radiologist, who is a specialist trained to examine the images. If they find any changes that warrant a closer look, you will be notified for further testing.
When a mammogram is needed
You may be advised to get a mammogram as part of a standard OB/GYN exam once you are perimenopausal or after menopause. You may also be advised to get a mammogram if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Breast pain
- Discharge from your nipples
- Thickening skin on your breast
- A change in your breast shape or size
- If you have dense breast tissue
If you have these symptoms, it may not be a symptom of anything more serious, but a mammogram is the first test that can rule out cancer.
If your mammogram doesn’t come back normal
Most of the time, your mammogram will come back with normal results. But if it doesn’t, that’s not necessarily a reason to feel panic. Abnormal mammograms don’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer.
If your mammogram has abnormal results, you will likely be advised to get additional tests.
Some of these additional tests may include:
If your standard mammogram comes back with abnormal results, you may have to get a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram is a more in-depth examination of your breast tissue.
Diagnostic mammograms typically take longer than screening mammograms. This is because the radiologist will look more closely at your breast tissue, especially if you have certain abnormalities that he or she wants to examine.
You may be referred for a breast ultrasound to examine your breast tissue more closely. It uses high-frequency sound waves and can determine whether a mass inside your breast is simply a non-cancerous calcification, a benign cyst, or a cancerous tumor.
Breast ultrasounds also show the amount of blood flow to your breasts.
A breast MRI uses a form of magnetic resonance imaging to look at your breast tissue. It uses strong magnets rather than radiation to create cross-sectional images of your breasts from multiple angles.
Dr. Patterson is co-owner of a new mammography center located in Boca Raton that’s designed to give you the best possible care. The center was specially created to give you a better experience, including minimal waiting times, state-of-the-art equipment, and fast results.
If you need to get a mammogram, it’s nothing to fear. Contact Dr. Alan Patterson or request an appointment at this new facility online.