Mammography-Breast exams, and Avoiding Dangerous Mistakes

"Cancer of the breast is, in women, the most common incident cancer and cause of death from cancer, and is the third most common cancer overall, throughout the world. An estimated 910,000 cases occurred in 1996, accounting for nine percent of all new cases of cancer."(From; Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective,p252)

Detecting breast cancer early can increase your treatment options and even save your life. Often however, just showing up on time for your appointment isn't enough to guarantee results. Depending on the test, the outcome could be skewed by what you ate before hand, when you had your period or even whether you used deoderant or not. Resulsts can be comprimised also by the equipment , quality of the tools used for your screening or the capability of the technologist and doctors involved.


What it does: This imaging technique provides X-ray pictures of breast tissue. They can be examined for the presence of abnormalities, or to get a closer view of irregularities found during a clinical breast exam or breast self-exam. Mammography can uncover suspicious changes that may subsequently turn out to be benign - such as cysts or fibroadenomas - or cancerous. But mammography isn't perfect: Sometimes healthy breast tissue can look malignant while potentially malignant lumps can be missed.

If a suspicious mass is found...

What not to do.

It is not uncommon, once symptoms appear or the individual is told of the positive screening test, to delay for months before seeking medical attention. Do Not Delay Treatment.

Where to go: Whether your gynecologist or primary-care physician sugests that you use a hospital radiology department, a breast clinicor an imaging center, make sure the facility you select is certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Question that should be included in your health history before the mammography. Seems like common sense, but...

  1. Do you practice breast self-examination?
  2. Have you ever had a mammogram? When was your last mammogram? What were the results?
  3. Have you noticed any dimpling? Seen or felt any change in your breasts? Ever been told you have lumpy or cystic breasts?
  4. Have you ever felt a breast lump or been told you had a breast lump?
  5. Do you have a family history of breast cancer?

How the test is done: A mammography usually takes about 20 minutes and is often preformed in the radiology department of a hospital or at a freestanding center. Two veiws are taken of each breast, a craniocaudad view and a mediolateral view, with the breast compressed from top to bottom and side to side. Often, women experience some discomfort because maximum breast compression is needed to visualize breast tissue.

The mammography Quality Standards Act of 1992 has been enacted to ensure the use of high-quality machines and experienced personel. An experienced or qualified technologist will know how to position breasts on the machine so that abnormalities won't be left off the film. Careful film processing creates apropriate degrees of contrast so that the images can be read easilly. And experienced radiologists will be able to preceive even very subtle irregularities on the film.

Breast Cancer Symptoms:

Before a Mammography: You can avoid a false positive reading by not useing any deodorant, lotion or talcum on or near your breasts on the day of your mamogram. The products can show up on the X-ray as spots, which might be misread as calcification (calcium deposits, which can indicate that some benign or malignant process is going on).

Food Nutrition and Breast Cancer: From the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research; their scientists have concluded that some factors that affect the risk of breast cancer probably act early in life. In particuliar, evidence that rapid early growth and greater adult height (how tall you are is now a risk factor) increase the risk of breast cancer.

Further, diets high in vegetable and fruits probably decrease the risk of breast cancer; and alcohol and weight gain in adult life probably increase risk, as does high body mass after menopause. In addition, the panel notes that non-starch polysaccarides (fibre), regular physical exercise, and carotenoids possibly decrease the risk of breast cancer, and that diets high in red meats, total fat, and animal/saturated fat possibly increase risk.

Regular consumption of coffee has not been found to affect the risk of contracting breast cancer.

The most effective means of preventing breast cancer are the consumption of diets high in vegetables and fruits, avoidance of alcohol, and the maintanance of body weight within the recommended levels by consumtion of appropriate diets and by regular physical activity throughout life.

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