Screening tests are performed prior to any cancerous symptoms appearing. These types of tests are important because cancer is easier to treat when it is diagnosed early. The number of treatment options increases, leading to a better chance the woman will survive. The two most important aspects are how far cancer has spread and the size of cancer. Breast cancer can be detected by a mammogram prior to it being felt.
Every woman in good health should have breast cancer screenings on a regular basis until she reaches the age of 75. Women between the ages of fifty and 75 have an average risk of developing breast cancer.
The recommendation is to have a mammogram every two years. Women between the ages of forty and 49 should speak with a medical professional as to when and how often a breast cancer screening should be performed.
In most cases, women under the age of thirty do not require breast screening. The process begins when the woman talks to a medical professional about the best options available for her specific needs. There are different types of breast screenings available such as mammography, ultrasound, and MRI.
The most commonly performed procedure for women with an average risk for cancer is mammography. This is when x-ray radiation is directed through the breast. This enables an image to be produced on a digital recording plate or on film. The radiation required is a low dose. This locates malignant tumors, even if they are unable to be felt by the hand.
A mammogram is also performed when the woman is experiencing symptoms or lumps in the breasts that have been identified. The effectiveness of a mammogram is not as accurate in pre-menopausal, younger women. This means the results will be more difficult to interpret. Any breast cancer on a mammogram will show as white. The issue with young breast tissue is it also shows as white.
The breast turns to fat due to the aging process. This tissue appears much darker on a mammogram than younger breast tissue. This makes it easier to find cancer. Looking for cancer when a mammogram is performed on a young woman is nearly impossible because it appears as white on white. A mammogram will not prevent breast cancer. Mammograms are incapable of preventing tumors, but they are able to detect them.
Approximately 25 percent of all mammograms miss breast cancer. This is referred to as a false negative. A false positive is also possible. In some instances, a biopsy shows what the mammogram revealed was not cancer. According to research, approximately 75 percent of all biopsy results are nothing more than a benign lesion. Mammography screenings originated during the 1980s.
Mammograms are responsible for breast cancer being diagnosed more frequently and earlier. Protection is not guaranteed by the early detection of cancer. Although mammograms can result in unnecessary invasive procedures such as biopsies, they also save lives. Early diagnosis of breast cancer is imperative for the most effective treatment. Once breast cancer has progressed to a certain extent, the chances of survival decrease.
The contrast for digital mammographies can be adjusted and the image enlarged. Radiologists are then able to focus on any suspicious areas. This enables them to detect tumors easier in dense breast tissue. Digital images can also be stored for electronic transmission. This allows the radiologist to consult with an expert at another location.
Digital mammography is recommended for women below the age of fifty, have dense breasts or are perimenopausal or premenopausal. Digital mammography does not appear to improve the outcome or provide an earlier diagnosis.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI or magnetic resonance imaging uses radiofrequency pulses and a powerful magnetic field for the creation of images of tissues and organs processed through a computer. This does not require the use of ionizing radiation. Intravenous contrast injection is necessary.
MRIs are an effective breast cancer screening for the detection of invasive breast cancer. Lesions can be incorrectly identified as malignant with an MRI. This screening is not appropriate for the general population or a substitute for traditional mammography. An MRI may be recommended when the risk of breast cancer is high.
Ultrasound imaging is also referred to as sonography. This is when a transducer emits high-frequency sound waves to create an image. The sound is magnified through a microphone. This is an excellent technique for distinguishing liquids from solids. This means an ultrasound can determine the difference between a benign cyst filled with fluid and solid tumors.
When an abnormality is shown on a mammogram, an ultrasound can be used for evaluation. This test is also effective for the guidance necessary for needle biopsies. By itself, an ultrasound is not useful for breast cancer screenings. A study was conducted regarding automated ultrasound devices for the entire breast. The results showed cancer detection was significantly improved for dense breasts as opposed to just mammography.
Ultrasound is not usually recommended for women with an average risk of breast cancer interested in screening. This technique is used often once mammography or palpitation has detected masses.
Breast-Specific Gama Imaging
A BSGI or breast-specific gamma imaging identifies cancer cells through the use of a radioactive tracer. This test is performed with mammography as opposed to by itself. This type of test is not easily available because additional research is required to determine the efficiency of this test. Some of the insurance companies will not cover the cost of a BSGI.
More effective and less invasive procedures are being researched for the future for diagnosing and treating breast cancer. This includes imaging technologies to examine the cellular level of breast cancer. If this type of testing is determined to be effective for diagnosing cancer, it is expected to become widely used. Current PEM and BSGI testing require high radiation.
This is the reason these tests are not used for routine cancer screenings. In some cases, BGSI is performed to assess breast cancer prior to the patient having surgery.
Positron Emission Mammography
PEM or positron emission mammography detects areas where there is a rapid growth of cancer cells through the use of gamma rays. The image is analyzed by a computer to determine the location, shape and size of the mass. PEM is performed in conjunction with mammography for the identification of smaller and more invasive cancers and DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ. This type of cancer is found in the milk ducts.
PEM is not frequently performed because the effectiveness of the test is still being studied. PEM is not always covered by medical insurance. This test can be performed to asses breast cancer patients prior to surgery. PEM should not be used as a follow up for an abnormal mammogram or for general breast cancer screening.
The temperature of specific areas of the body is recorded by thermography. This is accomplished by measuring infrared radiation. The temperature of malignant tissue is usually higher than the normal tissue. This is due to the higher metabolic rate and richness of the blood supply. No evidence is currently available to support thermography as either a diagnostic or screening tool.
According to the FDA, thermography should not be used by itself for breast cancer screenings.
Women have been advised by experts for numerous years to perform self-breast examinations every month. The belief was the woman would feel any lumps. This would result in a faster diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. According to scientific studies, women performing this examination do not have a lower risk of passing away from breast cancer than those not performing the examination.
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