A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast and uses radiation. It is a tool used to diagnose breast cancer.
What is compression and why is it used?
Compression is a plastic plate that moves down onto the breast once the breast has been positioned on the machine. It is used to spread out the internal tissues comprising the breast. This allows the radiologist to see more detail of the breast and it decreases the amount of radiation you receive when having your mammogram.
Who can have a mammogram?
Every woman and man, aged 40 years and older. Those under 40 would first start with an ultrasound examination and then follow the doctor´s instructions as ultrasound examinations use sound waves to form an image, not radiation.
Radiation is harmful to rapidly dividing cells (young cells). Our breasts are only fully developed once we have had children and radiation is unsafe until then. However, if you have not had children by age 40, start doing annual mammograms, as getting older and not having kids will also increase your risk.
Myths about mammograms
- That the machines increase the size of your breasts;
- That your breasts are pressed flat;
- That by having a mammogram, you will get breast cancer;
- That compression is very painful. Compression should not hurt you but it will naturally be uncomfortable;
- Further investigations if mammogram report was not normal;
- In the case of a call back, make an appointment as soon as you can and ask a loved one or friend to come with you. This will make you feel a little more comfortable and you will have someone to talk to while you wait for your results;
- The first step would be to assess the mammogram images;
- Thereafter if something was suspicious, a biopsy would be preformed, whereby a needle is inserted into the area, cells removed and sent to a laboratory to be checked;
- The results from the laboratory could take between two days and a week to become available;
- According to those results, you could then be referred to a specialist for surgery;
- It is your right as a patient to get a second opinion if you are not satisfied with the feedback;
- Most breast diseases grow very slowly, so there is no need to act immediately. Go home, do some research and discuss matters with your family. Once you are completely informed, only then make your decision.