Going in for mammography for the first time? Keep these tips in mind

Published on: 19 October 2020, 14:19 pm IST

Mammography goes a long way when it comes to breast cancer prevention. And if you are gearing up to get one done, then these expert-backed tips can help you prepare.

breast cancer diagnosis
Early diagnosis of breast cancer is important. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Mammography is a diagnostic method that uses a mammogram or special X-ray of the breast to detect and diagnose breast lesions like breast cancer. Breast cancer accounts for 14% of cancers in Indian women. It is reported that every four minutes, an Indian woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and one woman dies of breast cancer in every 13 minutes.

This particular type of cancer is on the rise, both in rural and urban India. But the good news is that despite being the commonest cancer in Indian women and one of the major causes of fatalities every year, breast cancer is completely curable—if detected early. 

A timely diagnosis can spike the chances of a patient’s complete recovery from the ailment. Which is why mammography is so instrumental in breast cancer prevention. 

It uses low-energy X-rays to view changes in the breast tissues and helps in detecting and locating the cancer so that proper treatment can be done. However, if you are planning to get one, it is always best to know what to expect.

Things to keep in mind while going for a mammography
  • First of all, inform your doctor or the technician conducting the examination, if you are pregnant (or you suspect you are pregnant) or are breastfeeding, prior to the mammogram. In such cases instead of mammography, your doctor may prescribe another screening method, like breast ultrasound.

  • Always try to use a facility that specializes in mammograms, and does several mammograms a day.

  • It is better to go to the same facility every year, so that your previous reports can be compared easily.

  • If you are going to a different facility, take all the previous years’ reports, list and dates of mammograms, biopsies, or any other breast treatment you have undergone before. Comparison of pre-existing lesions is very helpful.

  • Schedule your mammogram a few days after your periods (first week of menstrual cycle), when your breasts are not as tender and swollen. Women in menopause can choose any day for the same.

  • Avoid using any kind of body powder, cream, deodorant or antiperspirant on your chest or underarms on the day of the examination. They can cause interference, as some of them contain substances that appear on the x-ray as white spots, which can be mistaken for calcification.

  • The procedure would require you to take off all clothes above the waist and put on a gown. It is better to wear a two-piece outfit like a skirt or pants with top for the mammography, so that you only have to remove what is necessary.

    Also, read: How to differentiate between benign and cancerous breast lumps? A gynaecologist explains

mammography and breast cancer
Get that yearly mammogram ,ladies. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Don’t worry if the mammogram reports are not normal

Even if your preliminary mammography test shows some abnormality, it does not always mean that you have breast cancer. In such cases, you may have to undergo further tests like ultrasound, a follow-up mammogram and/or biopsy, as advised by your doctor.

Breast cancer is 100% treatable provided the diagnosis and treatment happens in a timely manner. It is important that you follow a healthy lifestyle, conduct self-examination of your breasts regularly, and immediately consult with a doctor if they have any doubts. 

Most importantly, if you are above the age of 40, you must undergo  mammography once every year, even if you don’t see any changes in your breasts. 

Dr Agam Shrivastava Dr Agam Shrivastava

Dr Agam Shrivastava is the technical head  of radiology at SRL Diagnostics

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