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Breast Cancer and Mammograms

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Mammography uses special X-ray images to detect abnormal growths or changes in the breast tissue.

Using a digital X-ray machine made especially for breast tissue, a technician compresses the breast and takes pictures from at least two different angles, creating a set of images for each of your breasts. This set of images is called a mammogram. Breast tissue appears white and opaque and fatty tissue appears darker and translucent.

In a screening mammogram, the breast is X-rayed from top to bottom and from side to side. A diagnostic mammogram focuses in on a particular lump or area of abnormal tissue.

Why Do I Need a Mammogram?

Mammograms are performed as part of a regular physical exam to provide a baseline reference for future comparison or to evaluate any unusual changes in the breast.

A mammogram can help your health care provider decide if a lump, growth, or change in your breast needs further testing. The mammogram is also used to look for lumps that are too small to be felt during a physical exam.

Why Should I Get a Mammogram?

Mammography is your best defense against breast cancer because it can detect the disease in its early stages, often before it can be felt during a breast exam. Research has clearly shown that mammography can increase breast cancer survival.

How Should I Prepare for a Mammogram?

Inform your doctor or the technician performing the test if you are pregnant or think that you may be pregnant.

No dietary changes are necessary. Take your medicines as usual.

Do not wear body powder, cream, deodorant, or lotion on your chest the day of the test. These substances may interfere with the X-rays.

At the time of the mammogram, you will be asked to remove all clothing above the waist and you will be given a hospital gown to wear. You may want to wear a two-piece outfit the day of the test.

You will be asked to remove all jewelry.

What Happens During a Mammogram?

Registered mammography technologists perform the test. Most mammography technologists are women. A doctor specialized in interpreting imaging studies (radiologist) will interpret the X-rays.

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