Mammograms are basically x-rays use to check for breast cancer if no symptoms are present. These mammograms often referred to as screening mammograms. They are commonly used to monitor for tumors in the event that it cannot be physically detected. They can also be used to test for calcium deposits in the breast which would often signal the onset of cancer.
Mammograms are also used to test for cancer in the event that a lump on the breast has been detected. These mammograms are identified as diagnostic mammograms. There are many different signs that signal the onset of cancer or the presence of a tumor. Some of the symptoms include a change in the shape and size of the breast, thickening of the skin and nipple discharge. In the event that there are other complications such as breast implants, a diagnostic mammogram is used as opposed to a screening mammogram.
The same machine is used for screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms. However, diagnostic mammograms require a longer process. This is basically because the screening is done in a more in-depth way. Ultimately this also involves more radiation. The technologist will often magnify a specific area or angle of the breast to get a more detailed picture so that the diagnosis can ultimately be obtained.
According to many studies screening mammograms have been very helpful in detecting breast cancer early on. Ultimately what this means is that when it is detected soon enough, before it has spread treating it is easier. However, there are small side effects of the screening mammogram. So the benefits need to be weighed against the disadvantages.
One of the most common results of screening mammograms is false positive results. Aside from the fact that this causes unnecessary stress, anxiety and psychological disorders in women, it can prove to be costly and time-consuming to undergo further testing to get a more accurate result.
Screening mammograms are also able to detect cases and cancers known as ductal carcinoma in situ, more commonly referred to as DCIS. The problem with this is that these small cancers or DCIS is not life-threatening and often causes no symptoms at all. This overdiagnosis often leads to overtreatment. So ultimately, because doctors cannot easily differentiate life-threatening cancer between the DCIS, it is all treated together. On the other hand, screening mammograms can be inaccurate and provide false negative results. The problem with this is that if the woman does, in fact, have cancer; this can delay treatment and create a false sense of security in them. So if you want to save on mammograms, do your homework first.