Mammography is a low dose radiation X-ray for the breast. Various studies have proven this method helpful for the women over 50, a strong medium for cancer screening.
Regular Mammography should start as soon as one reaches 50. This should be continued till 70 with a break of two-three years. Those who are in a higher risk should do the test annually after crossing 40. Mammography is not approved for women under 30.
How mammography is carried out
You have to place your breast on a mammography machine first and then the plates will be compressed. The image will be taken by the machine. This is an X-ray which may feel uncomfortable and hurt a little. Any unusual changes or masses or calcification can be identified by the test. Lumps, calcification or change in the texture of the tissue and other issues are taken into account for a cancer diagnosis. Previous mammography reports are compared to the latest ones.
Unusual areas are marked in a mammography film, but this does not signal cancer for certain. A biopsy is required for confirmation. Sometimes a physical examination can identify a lump which mammography cannot. This can happen due to the location of the lump. Young mothers, pregnant and lactating women may have dense breast tissues that may lead to the condition. This can also happen with elderly women, as the breast tissues get denser. Such conditions call for tests like ultrasonography, MRI and so on.
*Professor Parveen Shahida Akhter is a medical oncologist at Shanti Cancer Foundation in Dhaka.