Mammography is currently the most effective screening tool available to doctors in order to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. However, like many screening tools, there is a fair amount of controversy surrounding when patients should begin using mammography. This can lead to confusion for many people regarding when they should schedule their first mammogram. The information found below can help you to sort through this confusion, as well as helping you to understand what you should expect when you do decide to schedule this procedure.
50 Is The New 40
Doctors used to routinely suggest that women begin getting annual mammograms once they reach the age of 40. However, over the past several years, this recommendation has switched from the age of 40 to the age of 50. This is because research has shown that mammography has payed virtually no role in the mortality rate of women between the ages of 40-49. The reason for this is that women in their 40's typically still have rather dense breast tissue. This can make it more difficult to detect breast cancer using mammography. However, this dense tissue will typically turn to fatty tissue in their 50's after women have gone through menopause, ultimately making it much easier to see the contrast between breast tissue and cancer cells.
Despite the changing trend, some doctors will still recommend that you get your first mammogram at the age of 40. However, if your breast tissue is still very dense at this point, you may wish to wait a few years before having your next procedure. This will limit the amount of radiation you are exposed to and allow your breast to complete the menopausal change that is beneficial in the use of mammography.
A Breast Under Pressure
Far too many women put off getting their first mammogram because they are afraid of how painful this procedure will be. However, once you learn what you can really expect during this procedure, you will quickly see that there is nothing to be afraid of.
In order to get a clear picture of the breast, a mammography technician will place your breast on a clear plastic plate. Another x-ray plate will then be lowered onto the breast from above. By flattening the breast, the technician will be able to get the clearest possible picture.
While the flattening of the breast will cause pressure that can be uncomfortable or even painful for some women, this pressure will only last for a few minutes. Avoiding this procedure during or right before menstruation when the breasts are most tender can also help to limit the amount of discomfort that you experience.
Companies like Radiology Affiliates Imaging can help answer more of your mammography questions.