Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States.

The good news is we have options to prevent and manage breast cancer. Doctors advise that maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating healthy and avoiding alcohol and tobacco all help to reduce your risk. In addition to making healthy lifestyle choices, mammograms are the number one way we can fight breast cancer through early detection.

Doctors are unsure of what causes breast cancer, but the most common risk factors are: 

  • Gender. It is the number one risk factor. In rare cases men can develop breast cancer, but women are about 100 times more likely. 
  • Age. Your chances of developing breast cancer also increase with age, as most invasive breast cancers are found in women above the age of 55. 
  • Family history. Women who have a relative with a history of breast cancer are twice as likely to develop it as women who don’t, according to the American Cancer Society.
Oct 16 Mammogram

Whether you’re getting your first mammogram or you’re a seasoned veteran, the experience can make women feel anxious. However, new developments in technology are improving accuracy and comfort. Below, is information you need to know about mammograms as they are today, and where they’re headed in the future.

When should you start receiving regular mammograms?

Doctors have drawn different conclusions about when women should start receiving regular mammograms. It’s best to talk to your doctor and let them know your family history to find out what’s right for you. 

How can you make a mammogram as painless as possible?

The breast tissue is least sensitive the week after a woman’s period, so schedule then if you’re able to in order to decrease discomfort. 

What else should you know to be ready for your appointment? 

On the day of your mammogram, don’t wear deodorant, lotion or other products around your chest area. Some of these products contain substances that can create false images on the X-ray. 

You may find it more comfortable to wear a skirt or pants to your mammogram, as you’ll only need to remove your clothing from the waist up. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure to tell your technician.

What is new about mammograms in the past few years? 

Tomosynthesis, or a 3D mammogram, is the newest technology available in breast cancer screening. While still too new to be offered everywhere, doctors in some cities are using this technology to create higher quality images of breast tissue and gather more accurate information. 

Tomosynthesis does not yet replace a traditional 2D mammogram, but doctors use them in conjunction. Because mammograms compress breast tissue and may cause overlap, images can lead doctors to believe an abnormality is present when there isn’t one. 

During a 3D mammogram, the breasts are only lightly compressed, meaning there’s no tissue overlap, and of course, less discomfort for the patient. If an abnormality is found on the 2D mammogram images, instead of calling a patient in for a second mammogram, doctors can consult the 3D images and determine if a true abnormality is present or if it’s simply a false positive.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please speak with your doctor if you have questions about mammograms.   



By Caroline South