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What is a Mammogram?

By David White
Updated May 16, 2024
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One of the most terrifying words in the English language is cancer. Large numbers of people die of cancer every year. More and more scientists are finding better and better ways of treating and eliminating cancer. An overall cure has not been found, however, and cancer risk remains high and very prevalent in a great number of people.

One of the main causes of death among women is breast cancer. The usual methods of treating and eliminating this kind of cancer include radiation and chemotherapy. Radical methods of dealing with this cancer include lumpectomy, the removal of a tumor, and mastectomy, the removal of the breast altogether.

Health care professionals urge their patients to practice vigilance in order to avoid altogether or lessen the effects of cancer. Inspection of the body via X-rays and other diagnostic tools is the main way for doctors and nurses to discover tumors before it’s too late. Such inspection of a woman’s breasts, looking for instances of breast cancer, is called a mammogram. Health care professionals will administer a mammogram to a woman who is complaining of breast pain or abnormality, or even to women who have none of these symptoms. The key is prevention, and the mammogram is an important weapon in the fight against cancer.

Using a low-dose X-ray, the mammogram machine takes a snapshot of the inside of a woman’s breasts. The machine itself is a rectangular box that is used for nothing other than producing the mammogram. The machine is just one part of the device, though; the other part is a unit that holds and compresses the breasts so that images at different angles can be taken. Doctors and nurses examine these snapshots, looking for signs of abnormalities such as lumps, which could be tumors. The results of a mammogram are usually available rather quickly, easing the anxiety of those undergoing the procedure.

National health organizations of various countries urge women to have a mammogram every year starting at age 40. This mammogram is capable of detecting the signs of breast cancer a full two years before a health care professional might find such signs using only hands-on inspection. If a tumor is revealed early enough in its life, it can be dealt with and eradicated much more easily than if it is left to grow unimpeded.

The mammogram is a very helpful tool for health care professionals in the fight against breast cancer. The mammogram is not wholly infallible, however. In rare cases, a mammogram will find no evidence of breast cancer even when it exists; in even rarer cases, the mammogram will signal evidence of breast cancer when there is none. In the vast majority of cases, however, the results of a mammogram can be relied upon to project an accurate picture of the state of health of a woman’s breasts.

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Discussion Comments
By candi — On Jan 14, 2008

What is the difference between a mammogram vs sonogram- which is best? I had 2 breast biopsies and my numbers came up very high for breast cancer that was July 07 now the Dr wants another mammogram however I understand if you happen to have breast cancer Mammogram is the worst xray to have being if cancer is present the mammogram causes the cancer to spread where the sonogram does not. Please advise!


Candace Van Lewen

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