Mammography is the process of using low-energy-X-rays (usually around 30 kVp) to examine the human breast and is used as a diagnostic and a screening tool. The goal of mammography is the early detection of breast cancer, typically through detection of characteristic masses and/or microcalcifications. Most doctors believe that mammography reduces deaths from breast cancer, although a minority do not.
In many countries routine mammography of older women is encouraged as a screening method to diagnose early breast cancer. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that women with no risk factors have screening mammographies every 2 years between age 50 and 74. They found that the information was insufficient to recommend for or against screening between age 40 and 49 or above age 74. Altogether clinical trials have found a relative reduction in breast cancer mortality of 20%. Some doctors believe that mammographies do not reduce deaths from breast cancer, or at least that the evidence does not demonstrate it.
Like all x-rays, mammograms use doses of ionizing radiation to create images. Radiologists then analyze the image for any abnormal findings. It is normal to use lower energy X-rays (typically Mo-K) than those used for radiography of bones.
At this time, mammography along with physical breast examination is the modality of choice for screening for early breast cancer. Ultrasound, ductography, positron emission mammography (PEM), and magnetic resonance imaging are adjuncts to mammography. Ultrasound is typically used for further evaluation of masses found on mammography or palpable masses not seen on mammograms. Ductograms are still used in some institutions for evaluation of bloody nipple discharge when the mammogram is non-diagnostic. MRI can be useful for further evaluation of questionable findings as well as for screening pre-surgical evaluation in patients with known breast cancer to detect any additional lesions that might change the surgical approach, for instance from breast-conserving lumpectomy to mastectomy. New procedures, not yet approved for use in the general public, including breast tomosynthesis may offer benefits in years to come.
Breast self-examination (BSE) was once promoted as a means of finding cancer at a more curable stage, however, it has been shown to be ineffective, and is no longer routinely recommended by health authorities for general use. Awareness of breast health and familiarity with one's own body is typically promoted instead of self-exams.
Mammography has a false-negative (missed cancer) rate of at least 10 percent. This is partly due to dense tissues obscuring the cancer and the fact that the appearance of cancer on mammograms has a large overlap with the appearance of normal tissues.
Subscribe to rss feed