Detecting breast cancer early
Mammography is the special X-ray examination of the breast. It aims at detecting breast cancer early. Especially tumours that are not palpable yet can be detected using mammography. Even tiny calcifications can be found in breast tissue. These so-called microcalcifications often indicate breast cancer. Small tumours can be seen from a diameter of 5 millimetres. Prospects of healing are explicitly good at this early stage.
In general, it cannot be decided immediately whether findings are benign or malignant. Then, complementary examinations are necessary - such as e.g. sonography (ultrasound), a magnetic resonance imaging (MR mammo) or a biopsy. Whether it is a benign or a malignant tumour can be found out clearly only then.
In which cases is a diagnostic (curative) mammography required?
- in case of a node or a sclerosis
- in case of unusual pain or skin alterations
- nipple discharge
- lymph nodes in the armpit
- follow-up examination after breast cancer
- in case of strong family history of breast cancer
In Germany, healthy women aged between 50 and 69 are invited to a mammography every two years in the context of the nationwide mammography screening. The risk of developing breast cancer is relatively high at this age.
- Hier fehlt die Gerätebezeichnung
How is the examination realised?
The patient is standing in front of the examination system during mammography. The medical-technical X-ray assistant discusses the procedure with the woman. She is to determine herself the extent of pressure on her breast. Then, the breast is carefully compressed using a plate of acrylic glass. Before the pressure gets too high, the device stops and the image is taken. The pressure is released automatically immediately afterwards.
It is important to know that compression is important for good image quality. Moreover, the radiation dose is clearly lower for a compressed breast.
Two images are taken: one from top to bottom and one lateral-oblique image. Then, the images are postprocessed and transmitted to the evaluation site. This takes a few minutes. The physician then discusses the result with the patient. If necessary, additional examinations will be arranged for, e.g. ultrasound examination of the breast.
Preparation for the examination
A mammography should be realised during the first half of the cycle, about 1 week after menstruation. The glandular tissue is a bit softened during this stage so that, on the one hand, image quality is improved and, on the other hand, the breast is less sensitive to pressure.
Please do not use any cream or powder!
If a mammography has already been carried out in the past, you should bring the images with you. Since mammography is an X-ray examination, pregnancy should be excluded.