Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer that affects women worldwide. According to statistics, one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. This highlights the importance of early detection and screening for breast cancer.
Mammography and ultrasound are two types of imaging tests used for the screening and diagnosis of breast cancer. However, choosing between mammogram or ultrasound can be confusing and overwhelming. Here, we’ll explore the differences between mammograms and ultrasounds to help you understand which test is right for you.
What Is A Mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray exam that takes images of the breast from different angles. The images produced by a mammogram can help detect any lumps or abnormalities in the breasts that may indicate breast cancer.
A mammogram uses low-dose radiation to create detailed pictures of your breasts, which helps in identifying any suspicious areas such as lumps or tumors long before they become palpable masses.
There are two types of mammograms – screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms:
Screening mammograms are done on women who have no signs or symptoms of breast problems. They’re typically recommended once every two years for women aged over 50 years old; however, this could vary according to individual circumstances.
Diagnostic mammygrams are more detailed than screening ones but also involve more exposure to radiation . A diagnostic mammygram might be needed if a mass was found during a screening mammygram or there were any other concerns about your breasts- like nipple discharge or changes noticed by you too.
During a diagnostic mammygram procedure – multiple images taken from various angles examined closely by radiologists – would reveal if anything irregular showed up in these pictures or not. Further tests needed, this would be followed by a biopsy.
Fun fact: Mammography machines have progressed from traditional film methods to digital ones which are known as Digital Breast Tomosynthesis that take multiple projections into account to create three-dimensional images of the breasts.
What Is An Ultrasound?
An ultrasound is a diagnostic exam that uses sound waves to create detailed images of the breast. The test can help identify any lumps or abnormalities in the breasts that may indicate cancer.
Ultrasounds are usually recommended for premenopausal women under 30 years old for whom mammograms have limited effectiveness because their breast tissue is denser than older women’s- making it harder to see malignant tumours with X-rays alone.
A breast ultrasound is non-invasive and painless, does not use radiation, and comes without unpleasant aftereffects or recovery time!
Screening ultrasounds are done on women who have no signs or symptoms of breast problems but might need sensitive imaging instead. It observes an area of concern noted in previous mammograms such as cysts – fluid-filled sacs – raised nodularity indicating structural changes rather than malignancy – like fibroadenomas which benign and solid yet cannot differentiate from invasive cancer lesions via screening mammygrams alone.
Diagnostic ultrasounds involve more rigorous examination where if further concerns arise they proceed to insert needle-instruments through tiny skin incisions so doctors can remove small pieces for biopsies which will confirm whether there’s cancer suspicion/ diagnosis accurately made without surgery!
Fun fact: There are portable handheld versions available in addition to higher-quality office-based equipment called Automated Breast Ultrasound Systems .
Comparing Mammogram Vs. Ultrasound – Which Test Is Right For You?
- A lower risk at detecting false-negative results.
- An effective tool for detecting breast calcifications – tiny mineral deposits in the tissues that can sometimes be an early sign of cancer!
- Results are instantly available to radiologists, allowing them to provide immediate feedback.
- Exposure to a small amount of radiation during the test. However, given that mammogram exposure carries tiny risks – which is approximately the same as riding in a car for seven hours or spending 3 days near someone who smoked cigarettes.
- Sometimes it can look noisy because there’s always dense fibrous tissue on display alongside any potentially dangerous bumps making detection trickier with novel techniques like Digital Breast Tomosynthesis still being fully incorporated into practice patterns/
- Very high sensitivity when detecting lumps less than half an inch at size between cups A-D- where cancers likely smaller than 15mm), whereas X-ray machines views have difficulty finding these especially younger women or women with more dense breasts!
- Ultrasounds are noninvasive and do not use radiation, making it safer!
- May give false positives if changes seen off concern may require further biopsies, tests without necessarily meaning malignancy,
- Follow-up MRIs needed might invalidate initial findings on ultrasound alone increase costs unnecessarily.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Is Safer: Mammograms Or Ultrasounds?
Both mammograms and ultrasounds are considered safe and pose no significant health risk. Unlike mammography, however, ultrasounds do not involve exposure to ionizing radiation.
When Should I Consider Getting A Mammogram?
National programs commence screening mammography for detecting disease usually start around age 45-50 unless personal family history demands otherwise. Women should talk with their doctor about when they should begin regular screenings.
Who Needs To Have Both Tests Done?
If you’ve been diagnosed previously already having problems identified in the breast tissue, regardless of whether it’s benign or malignant, your healthcare team may recommend combining mammography with an ultrasound.
Can I Request An Ultrasound Over A Mammogram?
A radiologist can discuss admissibility according to patient preferences as well circumstances altering elements and determine which imaging investigation would be appropriate for you.
Determining which test is right for you requires an understanding of its procedure, benefits and risks. Your healthcare provider can help guide you towards making a decision that will allow early breast cancer detection – the best chance we have at overcoming this pernicious disease!
Remember: protective measures such living healthy-lifestyles or reducing alcohol consumption could also reduce the risk of developing Breast cancer. It’s important to educate ourselves on these issues so that we can mitigate their impact and feel confident about our choices regarding preventive measures!