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Updated: Monday, May 17,2010, 5:20:27 PM
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Mammograms can detect breast abnormalities before they can be felt. While various organizations have offered conflicting advice on the exact times for mammography, mammography remains one of the most effective tools for detecting breast cancer in its early, treatable stage the most.

There are different ways mammograms are used:

    Screening mammograms * - Screening mammograms are conducted on a regular basis, compared to your previous mammogram, and used to find potential anomalies.
    * Diagnostic Mammograms - a diagnostic mammogram is done when you or your doctor to detect a suspicious lump or other problem.

Currently, the best evidence of the benefits of mammography screening and reduce mortality from breast cancer among women aged 50-69.there certain risks associated with mammography (false-positive results leading to unnecessary biopsies or surgery), but that these risks lessen women with age. ACS recommends regular screening mammograms for women at age 40. Special circumstances - such as family history of breast cancer - may indicate a need for earlier mammograms. Each woman should discuss her personal needs with their doctor or health professional.

When you go for a mammogram, you stand before a special x-ray machine. (Read about "X-ray") The person taking the X-ray, called a radiologic technologist, places your breasts (one at a time) between two plastic plates. During a mammogram, the breast is compressed to produce a clear x-ray. Some women find this procedure less uncomfortable when they schedule a mammogram right after their period, when breasts are least tender. Often two photos are taken of each breast - one on the side and one above. Options include:

    Mammography * Classic - to conventional mammography, X-rays are manually reviewed by a radiologist.
    * Computer-aided detection (CAD) - In mammography computer aided detection or computer desktop, a computer program is used to evaluate mammograms and to find areas that may need further examination .
    * Digital Mammography - Digital mammography uses a computer to collect and display X-ray images This allows the technician to contrast different areas and highlight potential problems. Digital mammography may be useful in women with dense breast tissue.

you should not wear deodorant, powder or cream under your arms when you get a mammogram because they can interfere with the quality of mammography. If you have breast implants, tell your mammography facility that you have when you make an appointment.

Mammograms allow the doctor to look more closely for bumps and changes in breast tissue. Mammograms can show small lumps or growths that a doctor or a woman may not be able to feel when doing a breast exam. When reading a mammogram, doctors look for abnormalities, and changes in previous mammograms.

ACS recommends that women at high risk of breast cancer should get magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as well as their annual mammogram. (Read about "MRI - magnetic resonance imaging) Women should discuss their risks with their health care provider.

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