What is a mammogram and when to do it

What is a mammogram and when to do it

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Mammography is a diagnostic test of the chest, whose objective is to assess the anatomy of the breast, to look for signs of cancer in its initial stages. They are so valuable that it is possible to detect cancerous lesions up to three years earlier than we would detect them with palpation.

Mammography is an x-ray of the breast, with which X-rays are used. The woman stands in front of the machine, and will support her chest on a surface. The X-ray technician will place a clear plastic plate on top of your chest in such a way that he presses it firmly. The objective is flatten the chest to the maximum, and keep it still while taking pictures. The process is repeated with the other breast.

The radiologist will then study all the images taken for malignant lesions.

For most women, getting a mammogram is a bothersome process. Some women find it painful. However, the process only takes a few minutes, and the discomfort soon disappears. The chest may be more sensitive if you are menstruating or are about to have it. We give you a few tips:

- Try not to have a mammogram the week before your period or while you have it. The breasts may be tender or swollen at these times.

- On the day of your mammogram, don't wear deodorant, perfume, or powder. These products may show up on the X-ray as white spots.

- Some women prefer wear a blouse with a skirt or pants instead of a dress. You will need to undress from the waist up to get your mammogram.

- If you have previous mammograms, take them the day they are going to do it.

Continue doing mammograms according to the recommendations for your specific case. Mammograms are more useful if they can be compared to those that have been done before. This allows the radiologist to compare them to detect changes in your breasts.

An abnormal mammogram does not always mean cancer is present. However, you will need to have additional mammograms, tests, or exams so your doctor can be certain.

There is much controversy about when and how often to have a mammogram. For now, the recommendation is that women do a mammogram once a year, starting at age 40. If you are at high risk for breast cancer due to a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or have received radiation treatment to the breast before, it is recommended that you start annual mammograms at an earlier age (usually around 30 years). However, this is something you should discuss with your doctor.

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