5 Things Every Woman Must Know About Mammograms
Early breast cancer detection can save lives but the thought of a mammogram scares many women. Scroll down to clear the air on this topic (Photo: iStock)
Early breast cancer detection can save lives but the thought of a mammogram scares many women. Scroll down to clear the air on this topic (Photo: iStock)

5 Things Every Woman Must Know About Mammograms

Anyone with boobs can get breast cancer. More than 80% women who get breast cancer don’t have any family history. Therefore, doctors advise women above the age of 45 to get yearly mammograms done.

Since a few years, there has been controversy surrounding the practice about whether or not its benefits outweigh the potential harms. Mammogram does not do harm in a quantifiable manner, but cases of overdiagnosis, repeat screenings and biopsies have raised concerns.

If you have questions regarding this procedure, here’s everything you need to know:

Loading...

Do Mammograms Hurt?

The entire mammogram procedure takes up to 30 minutes. Each of your breasts will be compressed for only 20 to 30 seconds. If you’re like me and the level of pain is the deciding factor for getting a procedure done, then this might scare you away!

True that! (Photo: The Quint)
True that! (Photo: The Quint)

On the pain scale, a bikini wax, lip wax, piercing, botox, threading are far more painful than a mammogram. Mammograms are like one quick squeeze, ouch! That’s it! So get over the fear because early detection saves lives.

The argument against mammography has always lost to the helpful diagnostic tool it provides.

The benefits of mammogram as a screening procedure have been questioned. However, there has been no scientific proof for the concern that radiation exposure from the procedure leads to cancer.

What’s It Like To Get a Mammogram?

(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)

If it’s your first, it will be stressful because you don’t know what to expect. Calm down, it’s just an x-ray which results in a bunch of black and white films of your breasts for the doctor to examine any signs of cancer.

Schedule your appointment a week after your periods so your breasts aren’t sore and keep it early in the day because you can’t wear any deodorant, perfume or lotion on the chest area. Any trace of lotion might get into the x-ray film and look like a problem in the scan.

False Positive Result Means A Greater Breast Cancer Risk

10 to 15% of all mammograms result in a false positive. A false positive means a higher risk, according to a new study - don’t press the alarm buttons because this ain’t definitive! (Photo: iStock)
10 to 15% of all mammograms result in a false positive. A false positive means a higher risk, according to a new study - don’t press the alarm buttons because this ain’t definitive! (Photo: iStock)

It happens many times - the radiologist sees something suspicious in the mammogram, asks for a follow-up ultrasound, biopsy and then it turns out to be nothing.

For the woman, it can be emotionally traumatic and cost a lot of money. But now a large-scale new research by the University of North Carolina, on more than 2 million mammograms, over a 15 year period from 1994 to 2009, found that it may be worth the effort. Women who get false-positive results have a 40% higher risk of developing breast cancer in the following decade than those who straight away get a negative.

Scientists say that this suspect tissue in the mammogram is probably the result of some biological change, such as cells growing more rapidly, which could predispose women to developing breast cancer down the road.

What Can You Do If There Is a False Positive Result

Stress definitely won’t help! (Photo: iStock)
Stress definitely won’t help! (Photo: iStock)

A false positive result would mean more aggressive screening by your doctor. Since there is a heightened risk, considering factors like family history, smoking habits, time of your first child, whether your breast tissue is dense, if you are above 55, your doctor will draw up a plan as to how often you must get screened. It can be three months, six or even a year.

In the meantime, eat healthy and include lots of exercise in your regimen.

Bottomline

According to the American Cancer Society, 80% of breast tumours are non-cancerous, 60% are found by women themselves in self-examination. There is a large section of experts who believe that given the radiation, emotional and financial stress of mammograms, they might do more harm than good.

But even if you regularly self-examine your breasts, in 4 out of 10 cases, the lumps are so small that they can’t be felt but detected only in a scan.

Dr Geeta Kadayaprath, senior oncologist, says:

I don’t think one can do away with mammograms because what it adds to arriving at a diagnosis and planning treatment cannot be understated. In high risk women, it is a very useful tool.

So if you are above 45, ask your doctor what is the best method to screen for breast cancer. And if the doctor tells you to mam, you take a deep deep breath and press your boobs in a metal box.

Also Read: A Pill a Day Keeps Cancer At Bay?

(This article was first published in December 2015. The Quint has updated and republished it.)

(Make sure you don't miss fresh news updates from us. Click here to stay updated)

Follow our Health News section for more stories.

    Loading...