Mammogram Screening Procedures in Northern Virginia, VA
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast used for screening and detection of breast cancer. Mammograms can be performed once a year as part of a routine screening, or as a more thorough diagnostic exam if a doctor believes a tumor may be present.
Many women perform breast self-exams by feeling for lumps with their own hands; however, self-exams are generally not efficient enough in finding cancer. Also, regular life circumstances such as pregnancy, a menstrual cycle, menopause or even birth control pills may lead to uneven or swollen breasts that skew the results of a self-exam.
That is why your doctor may recommend that women come in for a regular screening mammogram every one to two years beginning at the age of forty. The goal of screening mammograms is to find cancer when it is too small to be felt during a self-exam or by a doctor.
There are a number of conditions that may lead us to suggest that you come into the office to have a diagnostic mammogram performed. While most of these may be the result of a non-cancerous source, none of them should be ignored:
- Breast pain
- Change in breast size or shape
- Thicker breast skin
- Discharge from the nipples (other than milk)
Diagnostic mammograms generally last longer that screenings, because a more in-depth examination is performed.
On the day of your mammogram, you should refrain from wearing deodorant, perfume, or any other skin product as they may affect the results.
Once inside the exam room, you will be instructed to remove all jewelry and clothes above the waist.
The breasts will be pressed between two plates equipped with an x-ray device. This is not a painful compression, but it may feel uncomfortable. The pressure is necessary to produce an accurate test.
Your technician may instruct you to hold your breath for a few seconds as the picture is being taken. We will perform at least two pictures per breast from the top and the side.
What a Mammogram Can Determine
- Abnormal growths
- Cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign) lumps
- Fluid filled lumps (cysts)
- Calcium deposits which may be an indicator of cancer growth
Things to Know
As with any screening, a mammogram is not a perfect test. Certain conditions may make testing more difficult. These may include:
- Scar tissue from a previous biopsy
- Thicker breast tissues found in patients under the age of 40
- Breast implants
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