Are mammograms painful? What should I expect at my first mammogram?

What is a mammogram?

This is a special X-ray method of examining the breasts. Skill and special experience are required for the performance of the examination and for the interpretation of the X ray. This is done either in the hospital's department of diagnostic radiology or in the specialist's office. A specially trained technician, usually female, will X-ray the breasts in various positions. Each breast will be radiographed, even though the lump is only in one, so that the two sides may be compared. The presence and type and arrangement of certain calcium granules suggest the nature of the growth. In recent years this has become a great aid to the diagnosis of early breast conditions and to the follow-up examination of women who have already had some form of breast surgery. It is completely painless and involves no risk. The examination may take thirty to sixty minutes.

How accurate is the mammogram, and why haven't I had this preventive cancer test suggested to me before? 

The radiographic interpretation is sometimes inconclusive. In perhaps 10-15 percent of the cases it can be completely misinterpreted even by very experienced radiologists. However, in the majority of cases X rays can differentiate between an innocent tumor, a cyst and a definite cancer. The X ray does not replace direct examination of the breast. In a disparity between the two it is better to rely on the surgeon's experienced hand.

Breast Cancer | Mammogram | Nucleus Health

The examination is now widely used in women who have lumps, or in women who have already had a breast amputation, or in those high-risk women whose families have a history of breast cancer. In some patients who are completely free of lumps that can be felt, this technique has shown very early breast cancers or other tumors that are as small as two pinheads. These would otherwise not be recognized. The value of applying this technique routinely, to all women, is now being evaluated. No criticism is attached to omitting this X ray in the routine physical examination of the ordinary patient. In time, it may assume the same importance as the present routine chest X ray and electrocardiogram.


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