What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breasts. A mammogram is an important screening test for breast cancer. Used along with other tests, a mammogram can help detect breast cancer at an early stage when it is most curable. A mammogram can find some lumps or abnormalities that you or your doctor may not feel with a manual breast exam. A mammogram will create a detailed image of the breast to show the size and shape of a lump or change in the breast.
A normal mammogram shows no breast lumps or other irregularities in the images. An abnormal result might indicate benign (noncancerous) tumors, cysts, breast cancer (cancerous tumors), calcium deposits, or dense areas of breast tissue. A radiologist will review your mammogram images and discuss them with your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the results with you. Together, you will decide what next steps (if any) you need to take based on the mammogram results.
A mammogram is only one method used to screen for breast cancer and other breast abnormalities. Discuss all of your screening options with your doctor to understand which methods should be used and when.
Other procedures that may be performed
A mammogram alone cannot diagnose cancer. Your doctor will probably recommend further testing if a mammogram finds an abnormality. Other tests include:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) makes a detailed, high-resolution picture of your breast. An MRI provides much more detail than an X-ray.
Tissue biopsy of the lump or abnormal area. A tissue biopsy involves removing a sample of breast cells or tissues and testing it for cancer in the laboratory.
Ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of your breast. Ultrasound may be used to tell whether a lump is solid or filled with fluid or to guide a breast biopsy of a mass.
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Mammograms fact sheet. Womenshealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/mammograms.cfm. Accessed August 26, 2011.
Mammograms. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/mammograms. Accessed August 26, 2011.
Mammography. Radiological Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=mammo. Accessed August 26, 2011.
Breast Ultrasound. Radiological Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=breastus. Accessed August 26, 2011.