5 things you need to know before getting a mammogram

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women globally and according to a 2017 report by the National Cancer Registry (NCR), 1 in 25 South African women is at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

1. What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is one way of detecting breast cancer. Patients with a possible diagnosis should be referred for further imaging diagnostics - this means that an ultrasound, breast MRI, biopsy or a combination should be done to give a more accurate diagnosis. 

2. Who should go for mammograms

Health24 previously reported that women between the ages of 40 to 49 should start going for screening as this will be beneficial in taking faster action and saving lives. For early detection, women 40 years and older should go for annual check-ups to increase survival rate and less aggressive treatment. It is recommended that women 55 years and older should go for mammogram screenings every two years unless they'd prefer to go for annual check-ups to ensure they're in good health.

3. The importance of a mammogram

By booking that mammogram appointment or following through from your doctor's referral, you're already taking a thousand steps in the right direction.

Your first booking is known as the 'baseline mammogram; this will give radiographers a clear indication that it's your first visit and will be on record for future visits.

Mammograms are the closest method of early cancer detection. Going for regular check-ups can assist in treating the disease sooner and start treatment in the early stages of diagnosis.

4. Will you feel anything during the test?

Mammogram screenings are painless; there may, however, be some discomfort.

5. What to expect during a mammogram?

Your breast will be examined by a specially trained mammographer, where a low-dose x-ray will be done.

From the X-ray photographs taken, a radiographer will tell if there are any abnormalities or lymph nodes present in the x-ray.

An additional ultrasound could take place if the radiographer needs to do further testing. With this 3-D mammogram, the radiographer will be able to detect more cancers.

While not all breast lumps can be cancerous, it is important to monitor other symptoms. CANSA also recommends that women go for regular check-ups and familiarise themselves with the warning signs of breast cancer.

Contact your local CANSA Care Centre for health awareness materials and to arrange for screening for breast, cervical or skin cancer, or ask about scheduled screening campaigns by our Mobile Health Clinics, if you live in a remote area.

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