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Alternative Cancer Treatment - What Is Expected at a Mammogram?

Jul 21, 2008
Studies show that 1 in 12 women will contract breast cancer at some point in their life, with their odds increasing with their age. With modern medicine treatment can be both effective and simple. The key to the success of treatment is the early detection of breast cancer. Having a regular mammogram is a good way to ensure early detection.

A mammogram is a procedure where an x-ray photo of the breast is taken. The x-rays are looked at and examined by a radiologist who is trained to notice the subtle differences in pictures that might indicate a tumor. Distinguishing between cysts and cancerous growths is a necessary part of this process.

When you go for your mammogram you will be asked to disrobe partially and lie on a surface that will more than likely be both cold and flat. You will experience slight discomfort and it will last for the duration of the procedure.

As the technician prepares you for the x-ray photograph, they'll typically place a device called a compressor over your breast. That's needed in order to flatten the tissue, in order to get the clearest possible x-ray photograph. The discomfort isn't pleasant, but the procedure often takes only a few minutes so it's well worth it for the information gleaned.

X-rays are typically taken from several different angles to provide the radiologist with several different views. Because tumors start small and can be located deep underneath tissue, the more visual information a doctor has to look at the better chance they have of determining if any cancer exists. Also, the better look they get at the area they more confidently they are able to advise as to whether or not a tumor is present.

Some hygiene products that are typically used today are actually capable of lessening the clearness of an x-ray. Deodorant containing aluminum oxide, sunscreen and some skin ointments may obscure the view of an x-ray by absorbing some of the x-ray energy. It is important that you take a good shower the day of your mammogram and make sure not to use any creams, powders, sprays, lotions or other products.

As part of the test, physicians will often times perform a manual exam much like a breast self-exam. The doctor will be looking for the same things that you would. Though they don't know the exact history of your body as intimately as you, they are skilled in detecting things that are subtle such as thickening, lumps, and other indicators.

During your mammogram and breast exam the doctor will be searching for clumps of cells that harden, are immobile and are irregularly shaped. Mobile and soft lumps can often times be no ore than cysts filled with fluid. Usually they are benign.

When the patient desires it, usually when the insurance company is willing to cover the expense or there is good reason for extra tests, other procedures can supplement the mammogram. Ultrasound, for example, is becoming more common. They are limited in their ability to detect very early cancer development, but so is a mammogram.

More sophisticated tests have been developed, such as the QM-MSP (quantitative multiplex methylation-specific PCR), that can detect cancer growths as small as a clump of 50 cells with high reliability. As time progresses, such accurate tests will move into the mainstream. In the interim, a mammogram continues to be a good tool for providing peace of mind to the overwhelming majority of women.
About the Author
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