Mammography Services

About one in every eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. And according to the American Cancer Society, mammograms represent (at the present time) the best method for early detection of breast cancer. So it’s critical that healthcare providers keep up with the latest technology for early detection and diagnosis.

At Harrison Memorial Hospital, we work to ensure our patients receive the best care and imaging technology possible. That’s why our radiologists use computer-aided detection, otherwise known as CAD. CAD is sophisticated pattern recognition software which radiologists use to help them read medical images. CAD is used in mammography as a “second set of eyes” for reading images. Our radiologists review the mammogram, then activate the CAD software and re-evaluate the marked areas before issuing their final report. This software identifies features on medical images and brings them to the attention of the radiologist in order to decrease false negative readings.

What is a mammography?

Mammography is a specific type of imaging which uses a low-dose x-ray system for examination of the breasts to aid in the diagnosis of and prevention of breast diseases in women. By having a mammogram, it can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Therefore, early detection is the best protection.

Who should have a mammography?

The National Cancer Institute recommends women 40 years of age receive a screening mammogram every one to two years. Beginning at age 50, mammography should be performed annually. Women at a very high risk of breast cancer, should speak with their physician about beginning annual mammograms as early as age 27.

What should I expect during a mammogram?

A mammogram usually takes about 30 minutes to perform and is conducted by a qualified radiologic technologist. She will start by giving you a gown and asking you to remove your clothing from the waist up. You then will be positioned on a machine so that an image can be taken of your breast. As the testing begins, you will feel pressure on the breast as it is squeezed by the compressor. If discomfort is significant, less compression will be used. You will be asked to change positions slightly between images.

What if my mammogram is abnormal or I am asked to return for additional views?

Being told that your mammogram is abnormal will naturally cause anxiety. But, it’s important to remember that most abnormal mammograms do not mean cancer. Several things other than cancer can produce an abnormality, such as: • Shadows due to increased amounts of breast tissue or harmless cysts • Calcification due to tiny flecks of calcium in the milk-producing breast tissue • Scarring which might be due to previous breast injury.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that has developed from cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells which may invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs mostly in women, but men can get it, too.

How can I prevent breast cancer?

The National Cancer Institute suggests a three-point cancer detection plan for you to follow to help in the prevention of breast cancer.

  • Mammography. Medical and health professionals agree every woman starting at age 40 should have a mammogram taken on a regular basis, usually every one to two years. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your physician may suggest that you begin having annual mammograms taken at an earlier age.
  •  Physical exam. Have a health professional examine you to feel for lumps and abnormalities with the skin. Women should have breast exams during their routine check-ups. Women 20 and older should have them annually.
  • Breast self exam. Breast self exam is extremely important. It’s crucial that you get to know your own body and recognize what is normal or abnormal for you. It is easy, private and is the best early detection method.

Breast Self Exam 

  • Stand up and place one hand behind your head. Hold the fingers of the other hand flat. Gently touch every part of the breast below the raised arm. Feel for lumps, bumps or thickening. Now, repeat with the other breast.
  • Stand in front of a mirror. Place your hands on your hips. Inspect each breast for changes in size, shape and form. Do it again with your arms raised above your head.
  • Lie back with a pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. Place your right hand behind your head. Examine every part of your breast with your fingers of the left hand held flat. Feel for lumps, bumps or thickening. No, repeat with the other breast. Be sure to follow a consistent pattern.
  • Examine your breast in the shower or bath. Your hands move more easily over wet skin. With your fingers flat, move gently over the entire area of each breast, checking for any lump, hard knot or thickening.

The more times you perform a breast self exam, the more familiar you will become with the usual feel and any changes in your breasts. The more familiar you become, the more easily you will recognize any abnormalities that may develop. Breast self exams are best done one week after your menstrual cycle or the first of each month if you do not have a regular cycle.

If you find a bump, dimple or discharge during your breast self-exam, see a physician as soon as possible. Don’t be frightened. Most bumps are not cancerous, but only a physician can make an accurate diagnosis.

Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

Most women who develop breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors other than their gender. The condition is 100 times more common in women than in men. The growth of breast cancer tumors is often affected by the presence of estrogen and progesterone. The following risk factors result from exposure to these hormones:

  • Age 50 or older
  • First pregnancy after 30
  • Long-term (more than 5 years) hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Menstruation before age 12
  • Menopause after age 50
  • Never giving birth
  • Family history of the disease
  • Genetic link • History of breast biopsy or radiation to the chest
  • Moderate alcohol use (2 to 5 drinks daily)
  • Obesity
  • Personal history of the disease; women with a history of breast cancer are 3 to 4 times more likely to have a recurrence
  • Race (slightly higher incidence in Caucasians)
  • Sedentary lifestyle