Your mam knows best: why mammograms are vital
A 2015 study by the US National Library of Medicine confirmed what all medical experts already knew. Finding breast cancer early reduces the risk of dying from it – and in some cases by up to 25%.
Ever since its debut in mid-Sixties America, the mammogram has become the foremost method of detection, and a valuable weapon in the fight against breast cancer. Early detection, often with the help of a mammogram, has helped to transform breast cancer from being an often fatal condition into something that eight out of every ten people diagnosed with it can survive.
However, despite all the benefits that mammograms can offer – and there are many – there is still an element of fear and dread surrounding them. Part of this is due to the completely natural fear of discovering something you’d much rather not think about, but a far riskier factor is the myths and scaremongering that have stemmed from years of mammogram use. So let’s discuss them.
Radiation from mammograms can’t cause cancer
The solid consensus amongst the medical community is that the benefits of mammograms massively outweigh the risk, and under no circumstances should anyone be scared off from getting checked out. Yes, there is an element of radiation involved in a mammogram, but it’s a very tiny dose – far less than a chest X-ray, and comparable to the radiation you are naturally exposed to over quite short period of time.
A recent study conducted by the University of California in 2014 demonstrated that people massively overestimate the exposure to radiation from mammograms, which – they contend – could lead a section of the female population to believe that mammograms aren’t worth the risk.
Parallel-plate compression does not cause tumours
Although the process of parallel-plate compression – where the breasts are squeezed – in order to even out and reduce the thickness of breast tissue – can often be uncomfortable and even painful for a short time, it does not cause the process of metastasis, in which cells break off a tumour, spread, and settle in a different place in the body to create a secondary tumour.
What can a mammogram show?
A radiologist will typically review your mammogram pictures and the good news is that for about 96% of women in the breast screening programme there will be good news. In early stage breast cancer, there might not be a lump, but the mammogram may reveal areas of calcium in the breast tissue that could be an indication of cancerous changes in the breast. A condition called ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as DCIS, can show up on a mammogram.
While having a mammogram is never going to be a pleasurable (or even comfortable) experience, it remains the best and surest way to detect the onset of breast cancer – and for that reason alone, mammograms remain a process that should never be avoided.