Benefits And Risks Of A Mammogram
Mammograms are generally very safe. However, as with any procedure, having a mammogram has both benefits and risks.
Informed decision making: Screening for breast cancer is a choice. Make your choice by carefully thinking about the benefits and risks of breast cancer screening. You may experience these benefits or risks in a different way than others. Youll have to decide for yourself if you think the benefits are worth more than the risks. Talk about this with your healthcare provider to help you decide if screening is right for you.
Review the resource below to help you think about how the benefits and risks of breast cancer screening fit with your own personal values.
What Happens If The Results Arent As Expected
If your radiologist or doctor notices an area of concern, you may need a second mammogram, called a diagnostic mammogram.
Your healthcare professional might also recommend some extra tests, such as ultrasounds, MRI scans, or biopsies. During a biopsy a doctor removes a bit of your breast tissue so it can be analyzed more closely.
These extra tests are not uncommon, and they dont mean you have breast cancer. You could be called back because:
- An image isnt clear enough to see your breast tissue.
- Your breast tissue is extra dense.
- Your doctor wants to look more closely at a change in your breast tissue.
- A calcification, cyst, or mast needs a closer look.
The vast majority of breast cancer screenings do not result in a cancer diagnosis.
Almost any medical procedure carries some risk, including breast cancer screenings. Its important to consider the known risks as you decide when to begin screenings and how often you want to have them.
Inconveniences And Limitations Of Mammograms
Like any medical exam, the mammogram is not perfect.
Risk of overdiagnosis
- Additional examinations : When a mammogram result indicates a problem, a woman must then have additional tests. In 90% to 95% of cases, these examinations confirm that there is no cancer. They can, however, cause women to worry and even deter them from getting their next mammogram. Yet, additional tests are essential to make sure there is no cancer in the breast.
- Overdiagnosis: Some cancers detected with mammograms will never cause death: this is called a diagnosis. Breast cancer is a complex illness and there is no way to know how it will change over time. Some tumours grow very slowly and don’t endanger a woman’s life others evolve very quickly. Therefore, it is preferable to treat the cancer. It is estimated that 10 in 1000 women receive unnecessary treatments for breast cancer.
Risk of underdiagnosis
- Breast cancer invisible on mammograms : In some cases, a cancer might not show up on a mammogram even though it is there.
- Interval cancer: It is possible for breast cancer to develop between two mammograms. This is called “interval cancer”. It is quite rare, and women might have a false sense of security during the interval period. Regular, adapted screening is the best way to deal with these inconveniences.
- Make an appointment to have a mammogram 10 days after your period starts.
- Avoid coffee, tea, chocolate and colas for 2 weeks before your mammogram.
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Your Insurance Should Cover Breast Cancer Screening
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all health insurance plans should cover yearly mammograms with no out-of-pocket costs for women 40 and older. If your doctor says youre at a higher risk of breast cancer because of family history, an inherited gene mutation or other risk factors, your screening should be covered even if youre under 40. CBEs and screening breast MRIs should also be covered if your doctor recommends them. Medicare and Medicaid also cover breast cancer screening. Check with your insurance provider to find out where you should go for screenings and make sure theyll cover whatever services you need.
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Clinical Breast Exam And Breast Self
Research has not shown a clear benefit of regular physical breast exams done by either a health professional or by women themselves . There is very little evidence that these tests help find breast cancer early when women also get screening mammograms. Most often when breast cancer is detected because of symptoms , a woman discovers the symptom during usual activities such as bathing or dressing.Women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and should report any changes to a health care provider right away.
There Are Three Screening Methods
There are three types of tests that may be used to screen for breast cancer.
Clinical Breast Exam A CBE is a physical exam of your breast and underarm area by a health care provider. Its often done during your regular medical check-up. A CBE should be performed by someone whos trained in the techniquenot all health care providers have this training. If your doctor doesnt offer you a CBE at your check-up and you would like one, ask if he or she can perform one or refer you to someone who can.
MammogramMammography uses X-rays to make images of the breast . While some tumors in the breast are aggressive and grow quickly, most grow slowly. In some cases a tumor may have been growing for as long as 10 years before it creates a lump large enough to feel. Mammography can find cancers early, before you would have noticed any signs or symptoms. Thats why its often used as a screening test. It can also be used as a follow-up test . If youve noticed a change in your breast and are getting a mammogram, tell the technologist what you noticed before your exam. If you evernotice a change in your breasteven if youve had a mammogram recently and had normal resultsget checked out by a doctor asap. And if youve never had a mammogram before, heres everything you wanted to know .
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Tools Used To Assess Breast Cancer Risk
Several risk assessment tools are available to help health professionals estimate a womans breast cancer risk. These tools give approximate, rather than precise, estimates of breast cancer risk based on different combinations of risk factors and different data sets.
Because the different tools use different factors to estimate risk, they might give different risk estimates for the same woman. Two models could easily give different estimates for the same person.
Risk assessment tools that include family history in first-degree relatives and second-degree relatives on both sides of the family should be used with the ACS guidelines to decide if a woman should have MRI screening. The use of any of the risk assessment tools and its results should be discussed by a woman with her health care provider.
Lgbtq2s+ And Breast Cancer Screening
Peer-reviewed evidence on cancer screening for the LGBTQ2S+ community is evolving and the program is committed to enacting evidence-informed actions to better serve all Albertans. We will update this section on a regular basis in partnership with our LGBTQ2S+ stakeholders input.
Should transgender and gender diverse people get regular breast/chest cancer screening with mammography?
Before getting a mammogram, all individuals are recommended to speak with their healthcare provider about screening. Please consider seeing your healthcare provider to assess your breast/chest cancer risk level and discuss whether breast/chest cancer screening is right for you. In general, you should get regular breast/chest cancer screening if you are age 50 to 74 years and:
1. Assigned female at birth and have not undergone top surgery, or
2. Assigned male at birth and have been on feminizing hormone therapy for 5 or more years in total.
I am transgender and was assigned female at birth, do I need breast/chest cancer screening with mammography?
You should see your healthcare provider to assess your breast/chest cancer risk level. If you are considered to be at average risk, regular breast/chest cancer screening is recommended. The risk level assessment consider your age, family history, and if you have breast/chest tissue.
Talk to your healthcare provider about how to best monitor your breast/chest health.
I am on testosterone, do I need breast/chest cancer screening with mammography?
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For Women Who Have Had Mantle Radiation:
- a clinical breast exam every six months beginning at the time of your radiation treatment
- an annual mammogram starting eight years after your radiation treatment
- possible annual breast MRI
All women at above-average breast cancer risk should speak with their doctor about additional screening tests, perform a monthly self breast exam, and become familiar with their breasts so they are better able to notice changes.
MSK offers a comprehensive program for women at increased breast cancer risk, including regular breast exams and imaging. It allows any developments to be identified and dealt with right away.
What Else Can I Do
The best way to detect breast cancer at its earliest stage is by having a mammogram. You can also perform a breast self exam at home which can help you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel, so you can report any changes to a health care professional as soon as they are found.
It is important to talk to your primary care provider about your breast health and what is right for you. Your health care provider can provide information on the benefits and limitations of screening so that an informed decision can be made.
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What To Do If You Find A Lump
Dont panic if you think you feel a lump in your breast. Most women have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts all the time, and most breast lumps turn out to be benign . There are a number of possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps, including normal hormonal changes, a benign breast condition, or an injury.
Dont hesitate to call your doctor if youve noticed a lump or other breast change that is new and worrisome. This is especially true for changes that last more than one full menstrual cycle or seem to get bigger or more prominent in some way. If you menstruate, you may want to wait until after your period to see if the lump or other breast change disappears on its own before calling your doctor. The best healthcare provider to call would be one who knows you and has done a breast exam on you before for example, your gynecologist, primary care doctor, or a nurse practitioner who works with your gynecologist or primary care doctor.
Make sure you get answers. Its important that your doctor gives you an explanation of the cause of the lump or other breast change and, if necessary, a plan for monitoring it or treating it. If youre not comfortable with the advice of the first doctor you see, dont hesitate to get a second opinion.
Who Is Breast Screening For
BreastScreen Australia is the national breast screening program and actively invites women aged 5074 to have a free two yearly mammogram. Women aged 4049 and those aged over 74 are also eligible to receive a free mammogram but do not receive an invitation.
It is important to continue to attend screening when you are invited to do so.
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What Happens If Something Is Detected On My Screening Exam
Lumps, other abnormalities or questionable findings in the breast are often detected by screening tests. However, it is not always possible to tell from these imaging tests whether a finding is benign or cancerous. To determine whether there is a cancer present, your doctor may recommend that one or more of the following imaging tests may be performed:
- diagnostic mammography
- breast ultrasound
- breast MRI
If a finding is proven to be benign by its appearance on these exams, no further steps may need to be taken. If these tests do not clearly show that the finding is benign, a biopsy may be necessary. In a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed under local anesthesia so that it can be examined in a laboratory. One of the following image-guided procedures is used during a breast biopsy:
A pathologist examines the removed tissue specimen and makes a final diagnosis. Depending on the facility, the radiologist or your referring physician will share the results with you.
With early detection and improved treatments, more women are surviving breast cancer. If cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will discuss your treatment options and together you will determine your course of treatment. Today, women have more treatment options than ever before. For more information on treatment, see the Breast Cancer Treatment page.
High Risk Screening Program
We offer a screening and prevention program for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. Our team of medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, and staff members works with you to help you gain a clear understanding of your breast cancer risk factors, how your risk of developing the condition evolves as your life changes, and what you can do to manage your risk.
Our screening and prevention program is tailored to healthy women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer.
Through this program, each woman receives a thorough physical examination, a review of her medical history by an oncologist, and routine and advanced screening examinations that may consist of clinical breast exams, mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRIs.
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The Us Preventive Services Task Force
The USPSTF, a volunteer panel of 16 physicians and researchers, provides the following recommendations for people who are at average risk for breast cancer:
American Cancer Society recommends that you have a mammogram and a MRI scan every year, beginning at age 30, for as long as your health is good. Its important to take a doctors advice into consideration as you decide when to begin yearly screenings.
According to the CDC , the National Comprehensive Cancer Network a nonprofit group made up of 31 cancer centers recommends that people with high risk begin annual mammograms and MRI scans between 25 and 40 years old, or at the earliest age when someone in their family was diagnosed with cancer.
Healthcare professionals can detect changes in your breast tissue, including early signs of possible cancer, with several different tests, including:
Reduce Your Risk For Breast Cancer
There are several healthy lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk of breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence.
- Stay lean after menopause. Keep a healthy weight and a low amount of body fat. Eating a healthy diet can help.
- Get active and sit less. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. Do strength-training exercises at least two days a week.
- Avoid alcohol. If you drink, limit yourself to one drink per day if you are a woman.
- Choose to breastfeed. Try to breastfeed exclusively for six months after giving birth, and continue even when other foods are introduced.
- Manage hormones naturally. If you are going through menopause and trying to control the symptoms, try non-hormonal methods before turning to hormone replacement therapy.
The screening plans on this page apply to women expected to live for at least 10 years. Theyre not for women who have a health condition that may make it hard to diagnose or treat breast cancer. Your doctor can help you decide if you should continue screening after age 75.
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Who Should Be Screened For Breast Cancer
The NWT Breast Cancer Screening Clinical Practice Guidelines recommend that women of average risk aged 50 to 74 are screened every two years. If you are considered to be high risk for getting breast cancer it is recommended that you are screened yearly with a mammogram or other appropriate imaging as recommended by the radiologist.
You are considered high risk if:
- You have confirmed mutations of BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
- You have had previous radiation treatment to the chest area especially before the age of 30
- You have a 1st degree relative who has had breast cancer or ovarian cancer
- You have personal history of ovarian cancer
- You had a previous breast biopsy with Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia
If you or a family member has already had cancer, or you are experiencing any unusual signs or symptoms , talk to your primary care provider about your options for cancer screening. You could be eligible for breast cancer screening.
What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The most common breast cancer symptom is a lump in your breast or in your armpit. Other things besides cancer can cause lumps, so finding one doesnt definitely mean you have cancer. Also, lots of people have breasts that are just normally lumpy. But its important to get checked out if you find a lump.
Here are some other possible signs of breast cancer:
Swelling in your breast
Dimples in the skin of your breast
Pain in your breast or nipple
Nipples that turn inward instead of sticking out
Skin on your breast or nipple thats discolored, flaky, scaly, or thicker than normal
Discharge or blood coming out of your nipple
Its also possible for breast cancer not to cause any noticeable symptoms until the disease has developed more. Breast cancer screenings can help find breast cancer before you notice symptoms.
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