Researchers are constantly publishing studies suggesting the best ways to prevent breast cancer for women that have reached their fifties. However, it is still recommended by the American Cancer Society that women should get a mammography regularly. Your doctor or OBGYN can recommend how often you should be screened.
X-rays are used in mammographies to examine the various breast tissues. Fibrous, fatty or glandular breast tissues, are typically examined by doctors in order to determine your risk of cancer.
Mammograms are divided into two categories: screening and diagnostic. Women who have reported no previous breast irregularities are typically given screening mammograms. These women usually are screened because of age or other elements that could contribute to breast cancer. In contrast, diagnostic mammography is used to investigate irregularities.
Early detection of breast cancer is very important because malignancies can be addressed before it can penetrate other areas of the body. Timely screenings are commonly accepted as a reliable method of detecting cancer very early in the process. As a matter of fact, mammograms can reveal cancer years before it can be detected by feeling it. This is why women are urged by the American Cancer Society to start annual mammograms at 40 years of age.
Mammograms can reveal spots or tiny calcium deposits in the soft tissue of the breast. These irregularities in tissue could point to cancer. Advancements in mammography include digital imaging that can enlarge and sharpen the smallest of specks on the film.
Diagnostic mammography has the goal of investigating abnormalities after they have been originally detected. Lumps, discharges, or unexplained soreness of the breasts are reasons physicians may order this type of mammogram.
In addition, doctors sometimes use other methods to examine breast irregularities. Magnetic Resonance Imaging has the advantage of showing detail often missed by mammography. Ultrasounds help determine the density of lesions. And PET scans are sometimes used to examine cell activity. All of these can be used to evaluate the degree of spreading of malignant breast tumors. While these tools assist in the examination of breast irregularities and tumors, mammograms are still essential in detecting problems early, before they turn into something more serious.
There are many factors that put women at risk for breast cancer. Genetic factors and age draw the most attention when determining a woman's risk for malignancy. While it has already been stated that women should start getting mammograms at 40, a history of breast cancer in the family indicates an even earlier need to start screening.