A mammogram is an imaging test that is used to look for evidence of breast cancer and other illnesses. Receiving regular testing can increase the chances that breast cancer will be detected at an early, treatable stage. At Shenandoah Women’s Healthcare in Harrisonburg, Virginia, we can use 3D Onsite Mammography to create detailed images of your breasts.
How Often Should You Get a Mammogram?
Your medical background, age, and family history impact your risk of experiencing breast cancer and other illnesses during your lifetime. As a result, you should talk to your primary care doctor about how frequently you should receive mammograms of your breasts. However, there are some general recommendations that can help you determine a screening schedule that will work for you.
If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, it’s common to start receiving X-rays of your breasts when you reach the age of forty. At this point in your life, you might choose to receive one screening every one or two years.
Medical organizations also create specific screening suggestions that can help you to decide how frequently to receive breast screenings. For example, the American Cancer Society says that if you have an average risk of developing breast cancer, you can choose to begin receiving yearly screenings between the ages of forty and forty-four. When you are between forty-five and fifty-four, the American Cancer Society recommends getting these X-rays every year.
Alternatively, the United States Preventive Services Task Force suggests that you receive one screening every two years when you are between the ages of fifty and seventy-four.
More Frequent Screenings
If your relatives had breast cancer, you might be advised to start receiving regular screenings at an earlier stage in your life. You might also be required to receive these screenings on a more frequent basis. Further, if you have dealt with precancerous lesions in your breasts or other illnesses, you might need to receive regular screenings to monitor the condition of your breasts.
A Personal Decision
Ultimately, determining your screening schedule is a very personal decision that depends on your risk profile, your individual goals, and other factors. When you have your first meeting with us, we can talk about your family history of cancer and your personal medical history. Together, we can create a screening schedule that takes all of these factors into account.
How Should I Prepare for My Imaging Session?
Consider Your Menstrual Cycle
If you are still having periods, you should try to schedule your test during the seven days after you finish your period. At this point in your cycle, your breasts are likely to be less tender and you will feel more comfortable during the testing process.
Avoid Skincare Products
On the day of your test, you should refrain from wearing lotion, perfume, deodorant, or other skincare products on your breasts or under your arms. These products may contain tiny amounts of metal. These metallic substances can show up on your X-rays and cause difficulty during the diagnostic element of your test.
Think About Medication
Taking non-prescription medication like ibuprofen or aspirin can be a good way to stay comfortable as we apply pressure to your breasts during the imaging process. When you set up your appointment, we can talk about how you can use medications to have a relaxed experience during your test.
Prepare Your Old Images
If you have images from previous mammograms, you should take these images to your appointment. These images can help the radiologist analyze the condition of your breasts.
What Factors Increase My Risk of Developing Breast Cancer?
Your Family History
If your siblings, parents, or children have had ovarian or breast cancer, you have a higher chance of experiencing similar issues during your life. Similarly, you have a heightened chance of suffering from breast cancer if several other relatives in your parents’ families developed breast or ovarian cancer.
Having menstrual periods for many years will alter your risk profile. In particular, you have a higher risk of getting breast cancer if you started your periods before you turned twelve or if you went through menopause after you reached the age of fifty-five.
Changes in your genes can influence your lifetime risk of developing cancer. For instance, BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that fight against cancer. When these genes function well, they help your body prevent your cells from dividing too quickly. If you have a mutation in these genes, you will have an enhanced risk of experiencing ovarian and breast cancers.
As you might expect, the risk of having breast cancer goes up as a woman ages. In fact, the majority of women who are diagnosed with this illness are over the age of fifty.
Getting insufficient exercise and drinking alcohol can cause damage to your body that enhances your chances of getting breast cancer. Further, if you are over your ideal weight after you enter menopause, you have an increased risk of developing this illness at this point in your life.
Your Reproductive History
You are at an increased risk for breast cancer if you had your first child after the age of thirty. Similarly, your risk profile is heightened if you have never given birth to a child.
What Should I Expect During My Imaging Session?
Getting Into Position
During your test, we will ask you to put on a gown and take off any jewelry that you are wearing on your neck. Next, we will put your breasts onto a special platform. We will use pressure to spread your breasts and enable the X-ray machine to take detailed images of the tissues in this area of your body.
Taking X-Ray Images
Next, we will use advanced mammography technology to take 2D and 3D images of your breasts. During your test, an arm of our X-ray machine will move in an arc over your breasts. This arm will quickly create images of the tissues inside your breasts.
Once the machine has taken images of your breasts, you will be able to leave our office and continue with your usual routine. You don’t have to take time off from your job or avoid any specific activities during the rest of the day.
How Will My Images Be Used?
Your X-ray images will be carefully analyzed by a trained radiologist. This person will search for findings that suggest that you have developed breast cancer or other medical conditions. For instance, they will look for masses, calcium deposits, dense areas, and other irregularities in your breasts.
If the radiologist notices calcium deposits, masses, or other issues on your images, you are likely to receive additional diagnostic tests. For example, you might have more X-rays taken of your breasts. You might also receive an MRI or an ultrasound. Further, you might need to receive a biopsy so that your healthcare team can perform tests on certain tissues inside your breasts.
What Is the Difference Between a Screening and a Diagnostic Test?
A screening test is performed when you are not experiencing any symptoms of breast cancer. Receiving regular screening mammograms allows your healthcare team to watch for changes in your breasts and look for breast cancer and other illnesses at an early stage.
A diagnostic test is performed when you are experiencing symptoms that may indicate that you have breast cancer or other illnesses. Further, we may also perform diagnostic imaging if we noticed lumps or other issues during your initial screening test.
Can I Receive This Imaging Test If I Have Breast Implants?
Getting breast implants will not prevent you from receiving this important test, and you should not let your implants stop you from following your recommended screening schedule.
When you schedule your initial appointment, you should tell us that you have implants. This information will allow us to adjust the imaging process so that we can account for the presence of your implants.
Can I Skip This Imaging Test If I Don’t Have Any Relatives With Breast Cancer?
Even if you have no family history of this illness, you can still develop breast cancer during your lifetime. In fact, the majority of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of this illness.
Further, breast cancer has a much higher survival rate if it is diagnosed at an early stage. In fact, the five-year survival rate of breast cancer that is diagnosed at an early stage is very high. The survival rate is much lower for breast cancer that is diagnosed at a later stage. If you do develop breast cancer, receiving regular screenings can increase your chances of detecting this illness at an early, treatable stage.
Do I Need to Get Regular Screenings If I Have Small Breasts?
Women with smaller breasts are not immune to breast cancer. In fact, women with smaller breasts are just as likely to get breast cancer as women with larger breasts. So, whatever your size, don’t neglect this important part of your healthcare.
If you have small breasts, you might worry that our X-ray machine will not be able to create detailed images of your breasts. Fortunately, we can perform this imaging test on smaller and larger breasts. The size of your breasts will not prevent you from receiving accurate screenings.
What Are Warning Signs of Breast Cancer?
There are a number of sensations and changes that may indicate that you are suffering from this illness. For instance, you might notice changes in the size, shape, or color of one or both of your breasts. You might also feel discomfort in this area of your body or feel lumps in your breasts. In addition, your breasts could become itchy or irritated.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away. These symptoms do not necessarily indicate that you have developed breast cancer, and other illnesses and infections can create changes in your breasts. However, receiving early medical treatment will allow you to diagnose the problem and begin the process of improving your health.
Protect Your Health
Getting regular mammograms is an essential part of managing your health and screening for breast cancer and other illnesses. Our specialized X-ray technology is a great way to create detailed 2D and 3D images of your breasts. To learn more about the benefits of this medical test, contact us at Shenandoah Women’s Healthcare in Harrisonburg, VA.