Frequently Asked Questions about Mammogram

  • What exactly is a mammogram?

A mammogram is like an X-ray of the breast. You will be made to stand in front of a machine with your breast placed on a plate-like surface. Another plate will press against the breast from above in and hold it in place for the X-ray. This step is repeated to get a side view of the breast. A mammogram helps the doctor get a closer view of the breast in order to understand any changes that may not have been felt during a breast examination.

  • Are mammograms painful?

Mammograms are not painful, although they do cause a certain amount of pain or discomfort when the breasts are compressed against the plate-like surface. However, if you experience any pain during the mammogram, make sure to report it to the radiologist. Do not ignore the pain if it feels like more than a pinch.

  • When should I get a mammogram screening?

Breast cancer is common in women over the age of 50. Hence, women over 50 years of age should get screened once in two years. Younger women must consult their doctors to check for the best time to start getting screened. However, self-breast assessment is advised in younger women in order to understand and report immediately in case of any abnormalities in the breast.

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Bust Breast Myths

Reports from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) shows that 1 per 1000(or 124/ 1 lakh) women develop breast cancer in a year.[1]

A woman’s breasts undergo various changes during the growing years. The breasts, influenced by hormonal changes occurring during the menstrual cycle, degenerate and lead to the formation of debris and fluid collection which feel like lumps. This sensation is common among women and is rather normal, as these lumps are usually benign and disappear on their own with time. Breast cancer develops when one malignant cell in the breast starts multiplying in an uncontrolled manner. Upon division, these cells cause lumps which are felt by the woman if it is on the exterior surface of the breast. If the lump is small and deep within, it is difficult to be felt with bare hands.

Breast cancer is said to be caused by a combination of factors including, stress, smoking, drinking, age, genetic factors, unhealthy lifestyle etc. However, all these factors in combination need not necessarily be causative of breast cancer, even one of them can cause the condition. Women these days are aware of the condition, and even its causes. Yet they tend to disregard the importance of early detection and screening. October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in order to create awareness about the condition and early detection.

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Your questions on Breast Cancer answered

Since what age should women start a breast examination?

Breast cancer is one such cancer that can be cured if detected and treated during initial stages. It is extremely important for women to know what their breasts look and feel like normally so that they are able to differentiate in case of any changes. Breast cancer can happen to women across all age groups, although a majority of the cases of breast cancer occur in women over 40 years of age. However irrespective of the age, women should be aware of their body and its changes. Diagnosing breast cancer in women under 40 years of age is difficult because the breast tissue during that age is much denser than in older women. However self-breast examinations must be done once a month and can be done by women in their 20’s as well. During the teens, women tend to feel lumps in the breast which is quite normal as the breasts are developing and the lumps normally disappear on their own gradually. However, if the lump gets bigger in size or causes pain/discomfort it is better to consult a specialist in order to understand the cause.

A self-breast examination should be done by women whose breasts are fully developed (post-adolescence). Beginning the practice early will help women create a habit out of it and they will become much more familiar with their breasts and can address any changes that the breast undergoes. The self-examination should be done after the days of mensuration as during those days the breasts tend to be swollen. At a younger age, regular examination at frequent intervals is recommended in order to rule out any health condition. Mammograms are not recommended for women below 40 years of age because of the dense breast tissue women have at a younger age, hence mammograms may not be extremely efficient. Women over 40 years of age should screen themselves annually. In case of women who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer; i.e. women who have a family history of breast cancer, women who started menstruating before 12 years of age, women with poor lifestyle habits, women diagnosed with benign breast conditions previously etc. it is recommended to consult a specialist who would be able to advise on the right time to begin mammogram screening.

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Everything you wanted to know about Breast Cancer

On an average 1 in 8 women suffer from the risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. The World Health Organization states that breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide.[1] In the UAE alone, breast cancer is one the top 5 cancers, and the leading cause of deaths caused by cancer.

Breast cancer is most commonly found in women over 40 years of age. However, the condition may also be caused in younger girls/teens, although the incidence is rather low. Women at different ages suffer from the risk of developing the condition and are differentiated based on various risk factors.

For a long time, the topic of breast cancer has been considered taboo and women often shy away from talking about it. In order to create awareness about breast cancer and bust common myths surrounding the condition, listed below are a few frequently asked questions and commonly misunderstood facts about breast cancer.

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Breast cancer early detection

Ways to detect Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a form of cancer that develops from the breast tissue. It is mostly found in women, however, can be diagnosed in men too.

Know symptoms and signs of breast cancer include:

  • Nipple discharge or retraction of the nipple
  • Enlargement of one breast, dimpling of the breast surface
  • An “orange peel” texture to the skin
  • Unintentional weight loss and bone pain
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit
  • Visible veins on the breast.

The risk factors for developing breast cancer include obesity due to a lack of physical exercise, drinking alcohol, hormone replacement, therapy during menopause, early age at first menstruation, having children late or not at all and family history.

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