Mammogram Planning: What You Need to Know
So, you’re approaching your fabulous 40th birthday. Your plan is to celebrate with close family and friends—to reminisce and to look forward to the future. Amidst all the fun, don’t let your mammogram fall off your to-do list.
Mammograms are vital to your breast health and wellness as you age, so we’re giving you the 1, 2, 3 of what to expect before you head in for your annual screening.
What to Expect In a Mammogram
The American Cancer Society advises that you start receiving annual mammograms at age 40 to check for any signs of breast cancer. That said, if breast cancer runs in your family, it is possible that your doctor will recommend you begin screenings at an earlier age.
The mammogram screening is essentially an X-ray of the breast. Here’s how it works: You place one breast at a time in between two clear plates. The plates press together to flatten the breast completely; X-ray images are then taken.
There are two different types of mammograms: diagnostic and screening. Traditionally, screenings are done as part of an annual check-up. Diagnostic, on the other hand, means more photographs are taken to get a closer look at an area of concern. Your doctor will let you know if this is necessary for you.
How Breast Density Plays a Part at Your Screening
Breast density is something to keep on your radar because it has a tendency to increase with age. Simply knowing whether or not your breast tissue is dense will not determine how it feels on your body, but it will help your doctor when looking at your screenings and determining your level of risk for breast cancer.
Breast density is the ratio of fat to breast tissue in your breast. High breast density means more connective tissue and less fat. Low breast density, on the other hand, means more fat and less connective tissue.
Why is this important? Because dense breasts are more difficult to read on mammogram images, and women who have high breast density are at a greater risk for breast cancer, four to five times more likely, in fact, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
When you receive your mammogram report, have a conversation with your doctor and ask about breast density.