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What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast which is used to look for early signs of breast cancer. The mammogram is reviewed by a radiologist – a qualified doctor who has specialised in radiology. According to  the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention), regular mammograms can detect breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before signs of breast cancer can be felt.

Who should get a mammogram?

The Mayo Clinic suggests that women from the age of 40 should go for an annual mammogram. Although a mammogram does not require a referral from a medical professional, your doctor can still review your risk of breast cancer during a consultation. If you go directly for a screening, talk to the radiology practice about the pros and cons of a mammogram.

What happens if your screening is negative?

You should continue with your annual mammogram screening unless otherwise advised by your doctor. Also remember to self-examine your breasts every month. Visit this video link from the Cancer association of South Africa (CANSA) for an easy step-by-step demonstration.

What happens if cancer is found?

You may need to have additional tests. The CDC points out that mammograms are not always perfect as sometimes there is a chance of a false-positive result. This means that although something may be an indication of cancer on a mammogram, after further tests, it may turn out not to be cancer.

In a CANSA-funded research study, Lorraine Govender, CANSA’s National Manager for Health Promotion, recommends: 

“If any woman has breast cancer symptoms, it’s so important to present to health practitioners and get checked out  sooner rather than later, as this can lead to an early-stage diagnosis that results in better breast cancer treatment and survival. So do these monthly breast self-examinations, annual medical check ups and cancer screening for early detection, as symptoms don’t always present until cancer has spread.”  

While all reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this article,  information may change or become dated, as new developments occur. The Link group shall not be held  liable or accountable for the accuracy, completeness or correctness of any information for any purpose. No content  in this article, irrespective of the date or reference source, should be viewed as a substitute for direct medical advice  from your doctor, pharmacist or any other suitably qualified clinician.”