Information is power. But too much information can sometimes leave us confused. Take breast cancer, for example. As the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, it receives a lot of attention and headlines in the news. With all the news about mammograms, from frequency to new technology, you may be a little confused. Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is the best method of detecting breast cancer as early as possible?

Having regular mammograms and clinical breast exams with a healthcare provider are currently considered the best ways to detect breast cancer early. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older have a mammogram every year. Depending on factors such as family history and your general health, your doctor may recommend a mammogram before age 40 or more often depending on risk factors. While mammograms do not detect all cancers, others can be detected by breast examination. Checking your breasts for lumps also helps, but shouldn't be done solely in place of the other two methods.

What is a screening mammogram?

A screening mammogram is a low-dose X-ray exam to look for changes in the breasts of women who appear to have no breast problems. Mammograms are used to detect tumors in the breast that cannot be felt as well as tiny deposits of calcium in the breast that can sometimes indicate cancer.

What is digital mammography?

Digital mammograms are taken the same way as traditional mammograms, but images are stored digitally instead of on traditional film. Digital mammograms allow physicians to adjust the image size, brightness and contrast to see certain areas more clearly. Also, physicians can send digital mammograms electronically to other sites for consultations. Some hospitals offer Tomosynthesis, which is taken the same way as a traditional mammogram but is particularly useful for women who have dense breast tissue, are premenopausal, perimenopausal or are under age 50.

When is MRI of the breast used?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is often used to evaluate abnormalities detected by mammography or to identify early breast cancer not detected through other means. It can also highlight benign features of the breast. MRI is useful for those women at high risk with family history or a gene mutation such as BRCA 1 or 2. It is not recommended for routine screening because while it is sensitive, it may still miss cancers that a mammogram would detect. On the flip side, MRIs have also been known to read false positives that require unnecessary biopsies and doctor visits.

If you have questions, we can help!

Regular cancer screenings are crucial in maintaining your breast health, and detecting and treating breast cancer at an early stage. In order to determine which of the variety of breast cancer screening options is right for you, speak with your doctor.

To find a doctor or speak to a nurse, call Consult-A-Nurse® at (951) 788-3463, 24 hours a day. Visit our breast imaging center page to learn more about our care and services.