5 Important Things to Know About Mammograms

February 27, 2013

Breastcancer.org is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive and up to date information about breast cancer. A mammogram is a life-saving and powerful breast cancer detection tool, and there are several things according to Breastcancer.org that are important to know about mammograms . Mammograms can save lives by detecting breast cancer at a very early stage.
The 5 Important Things to Know about Mammograms


1.    They can save your life. The detection of breast cancer at a very early stage reduces the risk of dying by 25-30%. Women should discuss with their doctor at what age they should start having mammograms. Generally speaking it is recommended to start at the age of 40 but it may be much earlier depending upon different risk factors such as personal health history and family members history.

2.    Don’t be afraid. Discomfort is minimal and the procedure usually is 20 minutes or less. The amount of radiation from a mammogram is very tiny.

3.    Get the best quality. Digital mammograms are preferable because they are recorded onto a computer and doctors can enlarge sections to view them more closely. Other tips that will help improve the quality and diagnostic results.

  • Bring past results to the testing facility or make certain that they have previous results to compare.
  • Try to have more than one radiologist read your mammograms, if your insurance covers this or if there is reason for a second opinion. If you feel that a second opinion is necessary that strongly request one.
  • Ask the testing facility if they have CAD (computer-aided detection).  CAD is a tool that helps radiologists in finding any areas that may need additional attention and evaluation.
  • If you were referred for the mammogram because of the results of another test or suspicious lump, make sure that the referring doctor submitted a detailed note of explanation as to why the mammogram has been requested.
  • Be open to discussing anything with the technologist that performs the mammogram. Let the person know if you found something or have symptoms.
  • Consult with your doctor and compare your mammogram results with other tests that may have been performed such as an MRI or ultrasound.
  • It is recommended that you wear a skirt or pants instead of a dress as you will need to remove your upper garment for the test. Do not wear deodorant or antiperspirant, since these may interfere with the test results by showing up on the x-ray film.
  • Avoid scheduling your mammogram right before your period when the breasts may be swollen or tender.
  • Let the doctor know about your family’s history of breast cancer or other cancers including your mother and father’s side.
  • If you don’t receive your results within 30 days then contact your doctor and ask for the results.

4.    The most powerful breast cancer detection tool is mammography. A mammogram is effective in detecting approximately 80% of breast cancer cases. Breast self-exams, clinical breast examinations, ultrasound, and MRI are other detection tools but there are no substitutes or replacements for a mammogram.

5.    An unusual result that requires additional testing does not always mean one has breast cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that 1 out of 10 women (10%) that have had a mammogram will require more tests. Of the 10% that need more tests only 8-10% will require a biopsy and approximately 80% of these biopsies will turn out not to be cancer. Additional testing is common but one should remain calm as the majority of test results are negative for cancer.

One can’t emphasize enough the importance of women having mammograms. They are truly life savers and are perhaps the most powerful early breast cancer detection tool that science and doctors have developed. There is confusion and controversy as to what age mammograms should start at but discuss this issue with your doctor as there are various factors to consider such as family history and personal history.

Post author Loren Pleet