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Mammography: Everything you want to know

1. What is Mammography?

Mammography is low dose X-ray imaging of the breast.  The X-ray image of the breast is called as Mammogram. The mammogram is studied by the Radiologists & also by the Oncologist for any the presence of cancer and other abnormalities of breast, such as, cysts, benign tumours, calcification, etc.

2. Do I need a doctor’s prescription for Mammography?

It is not mandatory to have doctor’s prescription for Mammogram. However it is important to consult the doctor prior to the mammogram. The specialist (surgeon/oncologist) can perform clinical breast examination before recommending mammography. Some international guidelines recommend yearly mammography for females more than 40 years of age. You should talk to your doctor in detail about the need of mammography for yourself and the benefits & harm of the same.

3. I have not noticed any swelling/lump in my breast. Should I still go for Mammography?

Screening Mammography is recommended as a screening test to look for Breast Cancer findings even before symptoms appear. It helps to detect the disease at early stages, even at precancerous stage, for best treatment outcomes. You can go for mammography after the age of 40 years old, especially if you have risk factors. You should talk to your doctor in detail about the need of mammography for yourself and the benefits & harm of the same.

4. Who performs Mammography?

Trained technicians perform mammography. The radiologists or oncologists read the mammogram for abnormal findings.

5. Do I need to get admitted for Mammography?

Screening Mammography is OPD based procedure, of less than 5 minutes. There is no need to get admitted for this test.

6. Is it painful?

It is not a painful procedure at all. It is a non-invasive test performed similar to the X-ray of Chest.

7. Does Mammography spread Cancer?

This is a myth. Mammography uses low dose X-rays, which do not cause cancer to spread. You should talk to your doctor in detail about the need for this test for yourself – both benefits and harmful effects.

8. What should I write in my checklist before I go for Mammography?

You don’t need to be empty stomach before going for the test. After you reach the Radiology centre, you will be given an outfit to wear. Bra should be removed before the test.

9. What is the difference between Screening & Diagnostic Mammography?

In screening mammography, single image of X-ray needs to be taken. Diagnostic mammography needs multiple X-ray images from different angles. It also takes more time than screening mammography.

10. What is BIRADS?

BIRADS – Breast Imaging Reporting & Database System. The American College of Radiology (ACR) has designed quality assurance tool for use with mammography. It includes seven standardized categories. Each BI-RADS category helps radiologists and other physicians to suggest follow-up plan to appropriately manage a patient’s care.

Category Assessment Follow up plan
0 Need additional imaging evaluation Additional imaging needed before a category can be assigned
1 Negative regular screening mammograms (for women over age of 40)
2 Benign (non cancerous) finding Regular screening mammograms (for women over age of 40)
3 Probably benign 6 monthly follow up mammogram
4 Suspicious abnormality May require biopsy
5 Highly suggestive of malignancy Required Biopsy
6 Known biopsy proven malignancy Biopsy confirms presence of cancer

11. How much does it cost?

The average cost is approximately Rs 1200. It varies from simple to digital mammography. The cost may go upto Rs 3500.

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