All About Mammograms

At Palo Verde Cancer Specialists, we’re proud to provide world-class cancer treatment to patients throughout Glendale, Scottsdale, Payson, and the greater Phoenix area. While we believe there’s always hope and treat patients with all stages of cancer, the best chances for successful cancer treatment come from early detection and early treatment. Mammograms can be an effective way to detect early-stage breast cancer in women with no symptoms – but they also come with certain drawbacks and should only be used when appropriate.

What is a Mammogram?

Put simply, a mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast. Mammograms are used to spot breast cancer and tumors, often before cancer displays any symptoms. Mammograms may be administered either as a “screening” mammogram or as a “diagnostic mammogram.” Screening mammograms are given in women without any signs of breast cancer, are shorter, and require less radiation, as the purpose of a screening mammogram is to look for anomalies that warrant more investigation. Diagnostic mammograms take longer and require more radiation, as they’re given to women where an anomaly has been spotted and needs to be correctly diagnosed.

Do I Need a Mammogram?

Mammograms can be effective in detecting breast cancer before it becomes more serious, and clinical trials have shown that regular screening mammograms can lower the death rate from breast cancer in women ages 40 to 74. There is no evidence that screening mammograms produce helpful results in women under 40, so regular mammograms aren’t recommended until age 40.

While mammograms can be an effective and helpful cancer detection tool, they also come with drawbacks that need to be balanced against their potential benefits. Drawbacks of mammograms include:

  • False Positives: Mammograms don’t produce an entirely clear picture of tumors, and while they can be instrumental in finding breast cancer at an early stage, they may also detect anomalies that don’t turn out to be cancer. This may require more screening, a biopsy, or another procedure to investigate the anomaly even though cancer was never present in the first place.
  • False Negatives: Mammograms are not a foolproof detection mechanism, and they may return a negative result even if there is cancer present. Studies indicate that this may occur up to 20% of the time.
  • Radiation Exposure: While the amount of radiation needed for a mammogram is minuscule and poses very little chance for harm, repeated x-ray exposure can cause cancer. Still, the benefits of mammograms almost always outweigh the potential harm from radiation. The only time this isn’t true is if a woman is pregnant, in which case the radiation may harm a growing fetus.

Contact Your Payson, AZ Cancer Treatment Center

For many women, preventive screening mammograms are an important practice to help provide the best chances of detecting breast cancer early on and ensuring successful treatment – but you should talk with your doctor to find out if regular mammograms are right for you. If one of your tests ever does come back with cancer, don’t panic: Palo Verde Cancer Specialists can help. As a world-class cancer treatment facility serving the greater Phoenix area, we can use a variety of treatments to treat breast cancer. Schedule a consultation today.

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