Mammograms: When, Why, How?

What is a mammogram?

Who should get a mammogram? How often?

What are the two types of mammograms?

How well does a mammogram help in the detection and control of breast cancer?

How can one get a mammogram?

 

What is a mammogram?

Mammography utilizes ionizing radiation to image breast tissue. The examination is performed by compressing the breast firmly between a plastic plate and an x-ray cassette which contains special x-ray film. For routine screening examination films are taken in mediolateral oblique and craniocaudal projections. The two images decrease the percent of false positives significantly.

Who should get a mammogram? How often?

Age is the most significant causal factor for breast cancer.

Doctors thus recommend that women over the age of 40 have a mammography done every 1-2 years.

There are other factors including family history, genetic makeup, and race.

Prior breast cancer or other breast condition such as atypical hyperplasia also play a role.

What are the two types of mammograms?

A screening mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer. It usually involves two x-rays of each breast. Using a mammogram, it is possible to detect a tumor that cannot be felt.

A diagnostic mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to diagnose unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, nipple thickening or discharge, or a change in breast size or shape. A diagnostic mammogram is also used to evaluate abnormalities detected on a screening mammogram.

How well does a mammogram help in the detection and control of breast cancer?

Retrospective correlations of mammographic findings with population-based cancer registries show that sensitivity ranges from 54% to 58% in women under age 40 to 81% to 94% in those over 65.

Several studies have shown that regular screening mammograms can help to decrease the chance of dying from breast cancer. The benefits of regular screening are greater for women over age 50. For women in their forties, there is recent evidence that having mammograms on a regular basis may reduce their chances of dying from breast cancer by about 17 percent. For women between the ages of 50 and 69, there is strong evidence that screening with mammography on a regular basis reduces breast cancer deaths by about 30 percent.

Estimates show that if 10,000 women age 40 were screened every year for 10 years, about four lives would be saved. In comparison, regular screening of 10,000 women age 50 would save about 37 lives.

How can one get a mammogram?

Most screening mammograms cost between $50 and $150. Most states now have laws requiring health insurance companies to reimburse all or part of the cost of screening mammograms.

Medicare pays 80 percent of the cost of a screening mammogram each year for beneficiaries ages 40 or older.

Some state and local health programs and employers provide mammograms free or at low cost.

Women can get high-quality mammograms in breast clinics, radiology departments of hospitals, mobile vans, private radiology offices, and doctors' offices.

 

 

References: www.cancer.org, www.breasted.org