What You Should Know About Breast Cancer Screening

Getting screened for breast cancer is important, especially if you are at a relatively high risk of the disease. Also, early detection could mean the difference between life and death.

However, before you set an appointment for you next or first film-screen mammogram, you should know that screening attempts to detect the possibility of an existing cancer. This means that getting negative result on a mammogram year after year doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cancer free, and vice versa, as evidenced by many false-positive mammogram results.

What you can do to prevent breast cancer

If you are at a high enough risk of developing breast cancer to justify screening, film-screen mammograms are still the recommended/standard screening method.

If get a positive results in your screening you must ask your doctor who your doctor what are the next steps to determine if your mammogram result is really true or just a false-positive. On the other hand, if you receive a negative result ask your doctor about your particular risk factors and what are your chances of getting a "false negative".

If your risks of developing breast cancer below the level where screening is justified, but you want to be sure, consider these:

Receiving a false-positive or false negative result can be very stressful and damaging. Plus, exposure to harmful radiation, over diagnosis and over-treatment of nonexistent or low-risk cancers can have negative effects on your overall health.

Breast cancer screening technologies

Hopefully new and more efficient screening tools will be created in the future. At the moment, we have to make do with the best we’ve got – film-screen mammograms.

There are other technologies that are being used in breast cancer screenings, but none are as efficient as film-screen mammography.

Three technologies are being used in breast cancer screenings today: digital mammograms, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound. All three are being scrutinized their potential to be improved in terms of comfort and effectiveness.

Digital mammography – it is similar to film-screen mammography in how they it is performed: same breast positioning and compression; also uses x-ray to take images of the breast. The only difference is the digital mammography is much faster – taking only about 5 seconds.

The advantage of using digital mammography is that it is stored and retrieved electronically. Plus, it can be adjusted to detect differences in breast tissue, which could benefit women with denser breast tissue. Also, displaying the image on a high-res monitor might make it easier to interpret the results. Currently, trials are going on to determine scientifically whether digital mammography is more inclined to reduce breast cancer deaths than film-screen mammography. Visit the FDA‘s site for their published FAQ’s about digital mammography.

MRIs – this technology makes use of a large magnet to picture the water in human cells. MRI images are often very clear, which makes it a potentially better option for high-risk young women than film-screen or digital mammograms. This process also does not require the breast to be compressed, thus eliminating the pain and discomfort of mammograms.

Previous research suggested that MRIs may be better at detecting tumors than mammograms. However, due to the large number of false-positive results which then led to unnecessary follow-up procedures, and the high cost associated with MRIs, they are not recommended for low-risk women.

Ultrasound – it uses high-frequency sound waves to create images. Ultrasound can help determine if a mass is solid (may be cancerous), filled with fluid. The downside of this tool is that its accuracy depends largely on (the skill of) its operator. For younger women aged 30 and below, ultrasound may be more useful in evaluating a breast lump (than a mammogram) because it may be better for interpreting abnormalities within dense tissue. Researches are going on to find out whether ultrasound is more or less effective than traditional film-screen mammography.

 

Source: RealAge