WHAT IS A MAMMOGRAM?
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that examines breast tissue.
WHEN IS IT USED?
A mammogram helps detect breast cancer at an early stage. Mammograms can detect some types of cancer before you or your healthcare provider can feel a lump. They detect most cancerous growths in the breasts.
Mammograms are also used to check lumps you or your healthcare provider have found in a physical exam. They can help determine which lumps are cancerous and which are benign. However, all suspicious lumps should be biopsied or removed, even when the lump appears noncancerous (benign) on a mammogram.
Mammograms can also show a more exact location of a growth before you have surgery or a biopsy to remove it.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR A MAMMOGRAM?
Be sure your underarms and chest are clean. Don’t put any deodorants, powders, lotions, or perfumes on your underarms or chest on the day your mammogram is to be done. These products can make it difficult to interpret the test results correctly.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE PROCEDURE?
A mammogram is done in an X-ray clinic, or a mobile van with a mammography machine inside. You will be asked to take off your shirt, bra, and jewelry. It takes just a few minutes for the technologist to take X-rays of each breast. The machine has a platform for your breast. The technologist will place your breast on the platform and put a plate on the breast to press it gently. This may be uncomfortable for a few seconds, but it allows the X-ray to show more of the tissue deep within your breast. Two or three different views of each breast will be taken to check the whole breast. Each X-ray position requires just a few seconds.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PROCEDURE?
The X-rays will be read by a radiologist and the results reported to your healthcare provider. You may also get a letter from your provincial program if your results are normal. If your results are abnormal, you will be contacted by your healthcare provider.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS PROCEDURE?
Mammograms help your healthcare provider diagnose breast problems. Most commonly, they help find breast cancer at an early stage. The smaller and the more localized a cancer is at the time of diagnosis and treatment, the greater the chance of a cure. The mammogram allows the detection of some types of breast cancer 1 to 2 years before you or your healthcare provider would be able to feel it. There is a better chance of curing the cancer if it is found at an early stage.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH THIS PROCEDURE?
· Some women are called back for repeat mammograms or for needle biopsies to see if they have breast cancer and then find out they don’t have cancer. This can cause anxiety as women wait for results. Mammograms often find small growths that are not cancerous. However, once detected, they must be biopsied to make sure that they are not cancer.
· Mammograms expose women to very low levels of radiation, but the more mammograms a woman has, the greater her lifetime exposure to chest radiation.
· Mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. Some breast cancers are missed by a mammogram and found only when they are felt with the fingers. If you feel a lump in your breast, report it right away to your provider even if you have had a recent mammogram that did not find any cancer.
Discuss any concerns you have with your healthcare provider.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I HAVE A MAMMOGRAM?
In Nova Scotia, women aged 40-49 are recommended to have a screening done yearly. Women aged 50-69 are recommended to have screening done every 2 years; yearly if there is a strong family history of breast cancer, they’re currently on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or the radiologist recommends they return sooner. Women over the age of 70 are recommended to continue to have screening if they are in good health.
In Prince Edward Island, women aged 40-49 should speak with their healthcare provider about their risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography. Women aged 50-69 are recommended to have a screening done every 2 years. Women 70 and older are recommended to speak with their healthcare provider about how often they should get screened.
Depending on your personal and family history your provider may recommend a different screening schedule. Some women with a high risk of breast cancer may need to start screening earlier and may need to be screened more often. If you have a risk for breast cancer that is much higher than average and you are 25 years old or older, discuss your personal and family history with your healthcare provider and ask when you should start having mammograms and how often you should have them.
If you have any questions about when you should start having mammograms and how often to have them, ask your healthcare provider.
WHEN SHOULD I SEE MY HEALTHCARE PROVIDER?
· See your provider right away if you find any change in your breasts, especially if you find a lump.
· See your provider during office hours if you have questions about the procedure or its result.
WHERE CAN I GET A MAMMOGRAM?
All Mammograms in Nova Scotia are done by the Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program, at set hospitals in Nova Scotia as well as in the mobile unit. For an appointment call toll-free 1-800-565-0548. Be sure to have your Nova Scotia Health Card ready.
All mammograms in Prince Edward Island are done by the Prince Edward Island Breast Screening Program. For an appointment call toll-free 1-888-592-9888.
For more information:
Prince Edward Island: