Mammogram Exams and Why They’re So Important

While mammograms are non-invasive and use x-ray technology, many women dread the procedure. Beyond the anxiety over the test results, many women fear that the mammogram machine will hurt them.

Mammograms save lives. Pre-mammogram nerves are normal. One of the best ways to get over your fears of getting a mammogram is to remind yourself of the importance of the procedure. Mammograms are important breast cancer screening tools and are among the best methods for early detection, which is critical for increasing survival rates. Detecting breast cancer early through mammograms allows for more women to be treated for breast cancer, and localized breast cancers can be removed without resorting to a mastectomy.

What to Expect During a Mammogram

The 2 main types of mammography are 2D Digital Mammograms and 3D Mammograms. The FDA reports that since June 2022, approximately 83 percent of screening facilities in the United States now offer 3D mammograms. 3D mammograms use  x-ray imaging technologythat captures a three-dimensional picture of the breast, producing detailed breast images that allow the medical team to evaluate the breast tissue layer by layer.

When you get a mammogram, you will need to remove your shirt,  bra and stand directly in front of the mammogram machine. A mammogram machine has two plates designed to compress and flatten the breast, which helps spread the tissue apart. You will place one breast at a time on the lower plastic platform. The technician will then lower the parallel plate down on the breast. Each of your breasts will be compressed for 20 to 30 seconds as the machine takes an x-ray. Some women may find having their breasts squeezed uncomfortable or painful, while others don’t feel anything. The entire mammogram procedure takes 15-30 minutes.  

Mammograms are important because they can detect abnormalities in the breast. When reading your mammogram, the doctor will look for changes in your breasts. The following are breast changes that your doctor will likely look for:

  • Masses –Abnormal breast tissue or masses, such as cysts and solid tumors. Not all cysts or solid masses are cancer. To be sure, the doctor may need to evaluate the mass further or watch over time.
  • Breast density –Measuring how the fibrous and glandular tissue in the breast compares to fatty tissue. Women with breasts that are denser than normal are at higher risk for breast cancer.
  • Calcifications –Calcium buildups that cause the tissue to harden. Calcifications are usually benign. They will appear as white spots on a mammogram. The two main types of calcifications are microcalcifications and macrocalcifications. 
  • Asymmetries – White areas detected on a mammogram are asymmetries, which may fall under focal asymmetry, developing asymmetry, or global asymmetry. Asymmetries are areas where the breast tissue is different from the normal pattern.
  • Architectural distortion – Radiologists use this term to describe that the breast parenchyma is tethered or indented. Architectural distortion may be a sign of breast cancer, but it can also be caused by a prior injury or how the breast was positioned and pressed on the mammogram machine.

Contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about breast cancer and breast cancer treatment options. Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology has multiple facilities located in the Tampa Bay area. Click here for more: