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Mammograms… How Important Are They? Essay

A woman finding out that she has breast cancer can be extremely devastating to her as well as her family. Some women seem to feel that it can never happen to them so they do not have yearly check-ups. It is very important to be examined once a year to make sure that there are no signs of breast cancer. Early detection is extremely crucial in order to survive the disease.

According to http://www.breastcancersociety.org/aboutbreastcancer/factsandstatistics/breastcancerstatistics, “Every woman has a 12% chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some point in her life.” (Common Breast Cancer Statistics).

It goes on to say that 1 in 8 women, at some point in her life will develop a form of breast cancer. Some women think that if they are diagnosed with breast cancer that it is the end of their life. Yes, it is a very serious disease, but with yearly exams and discussing any possible symptoms with your physician, there is an excellent chance for early detection. A woman’s chances of survival are greater than ever. With more and more cases of breast cancer popping up daily, yearly mammograms are extremely important in order to detect problems early. Women need to realize how important it is to take control of their health. Life is a precious thing that should not be taken lightly. Mammograms, self- breast exams, and clinical breast exams will not take up a major portion of your time. Mammograms are nothing to fear.

A mammogram is an exam used to detect and diagnose the early stages of breast diseases in women. Low dose x-ray systems are used in mammography to produce a specific type of imaging. Two types of mammograms are screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms, according to www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/mammograms (reviewed 2012). Screening mammograms are performed on women that have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. These screenings are done to make sure that the breast and the breast tissue are healthy. Diagnostic mammograms are performed on women who have a lump in their breast or other symptoms of breast cancer such as nipple discharge.

These screenings are performed to see if the cancer has progresses or stayed the same. Mammograms are not always the most comfortable test to have done, but it is extremely necessary. The earlier that breast cancer is discovered, the sooner treatment can begin to help prevent further problems. It is crucial to discuss any and all concerns and/ or symptoms with your physician. Your physician will be able to help you decide on a plan and schedule any tests that need to be done.

Scheduling a mammogram is very easy. The best time to have it done is when your breasts are less tender. This time is usually one week prior to your menstrual cycle or one week after. If you have any suspicion that you could be pregnant, inform your physician and the technician performing your mammogram. There are a few things to keep in mind the day of your mammogram. It is important not to wear anything under your arms or on your breasts such as deodorant, perfume, talcum powder or lotion. Wearing any of these products can interfere with the accuracy of the results because they can show up as calcium spots. If you are afraid of having the test and need some support, take a friend or a family member along with you.

There are two methods of mammography. One method is called conventional, which is using film like an x-ray does. The images are stored directly on the film which makes the images harder to enhance, manipulate, and magnify in order to get a closer look. Conventional mammograms make it a little more difficult to be clear about what the physician is actually viewing since it is harder to manipulate. Digital mammograms are easier to work with because the image stored as a computer file. This makes it easier to evaluate and it is also easier to send to another physician if necessary. Radiologists and physicians have an easier time diagnosing breast cancer if they can turn the image to different angles and zoom in.

Electronic images are preferred because it is easier to get a more in depth look. It is crucial for the physician to be able to view the images from a mammogram. The sooner problems can be detected, the sooner treatment can be discussed and started. A woman’s survival depends on early actions. Soma physicians recommend that high risk women have digital mammograms. Women with dense breasts, pre- menopausal, should also have digital mammograms since they seem to be more accurate. According to www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/mammograms (reviewed 2012), “Subtle differences between normal and abnormal tissues may be more easily noted.” ( #12. What is digital mammography? How is it different from conventional (film) mammography?)

There are benefits to having a mammogram done every year. One benefit is that if a lump was detected while doing a self- exam, a mammogram can let you know if you should worry or not. Self- breast exams are the first step of early detection. A mammogram is the second step. Early detection is extremely important. If a woman does not feel comfortable enough giving herself a breast exam at home, there is always the option of scheduling a clinical breast exam. A clinical breast exam is a breast exam performed by your physician or a nurse practitioner. Some women feel more comfortable having their physician perform the exam. Clinical breast exams are performed to check for any changes that may have occurred since the last exam. If early tumors are found, then they can be removed to prevent any harm to the patient. This can only happen if the tumors are found in the early stages.

Mammograms have a few risks. One of the risks is the slight chance of developing cancer from excessive radiation exposure. Too much radiation is not good on your body. Mammography uses the lowest dose of radiation possible and still manages to produce the best images. X-ray systems have been upgraded to minimize the scatter of radiation to other parts of the body. Another risk is the chance of receiving a false- positive result. This occurs when the mammogram detects a spot that looks like cancer but is not. This does not happen very often, but there is always a chance that it can. When a false- positive result occurs, then the woman must undergo another mammogram or an ultrasound to make sure it was a false result.

A false- positive result is very scary for the patient because she automatically thinks the worst. The woman then goes through extra tests and prays that everything is fine. Receiving that type of result can damage a woman mentally and emotionally. Mammograms are not as horrible as some women make them out to be. The machines are not torture devices and the technicians do not lower the top plate down quickly to turn your breast into a pancake. The process is done slowly and the technician repeatedly asks if you are comfortable. A mammogram is nothing to be afraid of. It could very well save

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