Why Are Mammograms Performed?
A mammogram is performed to:
- Screen for breast cancer in women without symptoms.
- Detect breast cancer in women with symptoms. Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump or thickening in the breast, nipple discharge, or dimpling of the skin on one area of the breast.
- Locate an area of suspicious breast tissue to remove for examination under a microscope (biopsy) when an abnormality is found.
- Many small tumors can be seen on a mammogram before they can be felt by a woman or her health care professional. Cancer is most easily treated and cured when it is discovered in an early stage.
Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer or reduce a woman's risk of developing cancer. However, regular mammograms can reduce a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer by detecting a cancer when it is more easily treated.
How to Prepare for a Mammogram:
If you have previously had a mammogram done at another facility, have the films sent or bring them with you to your examination. Tell your health care professional if you:
- Are or might be pregnant. A mammogram is an X-ray test with exposure to low-dose radiation and is not recommended for routine screening during pregnancy.
- Are breast-feeding. A mammogram may not provide clear results in breasts that contain milk.
- Have breast implants. Breast implants require a modified mammogram method.
- Have previously had a breast biopsy. Knowing the location of scar tissue will help the Radiologist read your mammogram accurately.
On the day of the mammogram, do not use any deodorant, perfume, powders, or ointments on your breasts. The residue left on your skin by these substances may interfere with the X-rays.
If you are still having menstrual periods, you may want to have your mammogram done within two weeks after your menstrual period ends. The procedure will be more comfortable, especially if your breasts become tender before your period starts.