A revealing look at mammograms

It may be tempting to put off your next mammogram, especially if your to-do list is getting longer and longer. But this test that takes only a few minutes could save your life.

Regular mammograms are the most reliable way to find breast cancer early, when a cancerous tumor is still too tiny for you or your doctor to feel. That’s when treatment is the most likely to be successful.

It’s also when aggressive treatments—such as a mastectomy to remove the entire breast or chemotherapy—are the least likely to be necessary.

That’s why it’s crucial not to fall behind on breast cancer screening. Here’s the timetable the American Cancer Society (ACS) advises for most women:

40 to 44 years old: Talk to your doctor about starting yearly mammograms now. Screening at this age is optional, depending on your preference.

45 to 54 years old: Get a mammogram every year.

55 and older: You can switch to getting a mammogram every other year or continue with yearly screening. Again, talk with your doctor about what’s best for you.

What doctors see

The radiologist who reads your mammogram will look for possible signs of cancer, such as a lump or a mass. Masses can be many things, including benign (noncancerous), fluid-filled sacs called cysts.

The radiologist will also look for calcifications, calcium deposits within breast tissue that show up as white spots on a mammogram. Depending on certain features—such as how many there are—very tiny specs of calcium called microcalcifications may indicate breast cancer.

When possible, the radiologist will also compare your past mammograms with your most recent one. This can help show if any findings are new or if they already showed up on past mammograms. Findings that haven’t changed aren’t likely to be cancer. And that might mean you won’t need more tests, the ACS reports.

Think for a moment: When was your last mammogram? Is it time for another one? Call 830-401-7850 to make an appointment.

Sources: © Coffey Communications, Inc.