First, please, refer to my post on breast self-exam. It is important to do your monthly self-exam. It is important to do it properly. Also, check out this article on breast changes during your lifetime that are not cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
Mammography can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Cure rates are much higher when the breast cancer can be found at this stage. Current guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) recommend screening mammography every year for women, beginning at age 40.
Diagnostic mammography is used to evaluate a patient with abnormal clinical findings—such as a breast lump or lumps—that have been found by her or her doctor. Diagnostic mammography may also be done after an abnormal screening mammography in order to determine the cause of the area of concern on the screening exam.
- Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam. These can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
- If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist at the time of the current exam. Or try to use the same facility each year so they will already have prior mammograms.
- Ask when your results will be available; do not assume the results are normal if you do not hear from your doctor or the mammography facility. Make sure you state who should get a copy of your mammogram results--family doctor, general surgeon, oncologist, plastic surgeon, etc.
- Calcifications--A calcification is a deposit of the mineral calcium in the breast tissue. Calcifications appear as small white spots on a mammogram. There are two types:
- Macrocalcifications are large calcium deposits often caused by aging. These are usually not cancer.
- Microcalcifications are tiny specks of calcium that may be found in an area of rapidly dividing cells. If they are found grouped together in a certain way, it may be a sign of cancer.
- Mammograms--National Cancer Institute
- Mammograms in Women under 50--TBTAM
- MRI Urged for High Breast Cancer Risk--WebMD