Ensuring the accuracy of my mammogram
Caroline Cranford, MD, is a radiologist specializing in breast imaging on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (623) 931-7999.
Question: As a woman, I know how important mammograms are. I also know that mammograms can result in false-positive results and incorrect diagnoses. Is there anything I can do to help ensure the accuracy of my mammogram results?
Answer: The simple answer to your question is yes. Mammograms are quite accurate, but not perfect. In addition to obtaining yearly mammograms, there are a few things you can do to help make sure that your mammograms are interpreted as accurately as possible.
Obtain Prior Mammograms: Cancer can change the breast tissue in very subtle ways. By providing the radiologist who is reading your mammogram with any prior films for comparison, you can help ensure that a cancer or abnormality is not missed. Having your mammograms performed at the same facility every year keeps your records in one spot and makes them easily accessible. However, if you need to switch facilities, then you should obtain your prior mammograms and bring them with you to your screening exam. If you cannot remember where you had your last mammogram, your healthcare provider may have records of your prior mammogram(s).
Report Any Changes in Your Breast to your Technologist: You should be familiar with the look and feel of your breasts. Any changes to your breasts (such as a lump, pain, nipple discharge, and/or skin changes) should be reported to your physician and documented by the technologist during your mammogram so that special attention can be paid to the area of concern.
Know Your Family History: Your risk of breast cancer increases if your mother, sister, and/or daughter have a history of breast cancer – especially if they were diagnosed before the age of 50. If the radiologist is aware of your family history, he or she may decide to make more cautious recommendations and/or suggest additional tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI, to accompany a mammogram.
It’s important to take an active role when it comes to maintaining your health. Abiding by these recommendations can help ensure that your mammogram is interpreted as accurately as possible.