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The compression or squeezing of the breast necessary for a mammogram is a concern of many women. Mammograms should be scheduled when a woman's breasts are least likely to be tender. One week after the menstrual period is usually best.
Women should not put deodorant, powder, or lotion on their upper body on the day the mammogram is performed. Particles from these products can get on the breast or film holder and may look like abnormalities on the mammogram film.
No special aftercare is required.
The risk of radiation exposure from a mammogram is considered virtually nonexistent. Experts are unanimous that any negligible risk is far outweighed by the potential benefits of mammography.
Some breast cancers do not show up on mammograms, or "hide" in dense breast tissue. A normal (or negative) study is not a guarantee that a woman is cancer-free. Mammograms find about 85% to 90% of breast cancers.
"False positive" readings are also possible, and 5% to 10% of mammogram results indicate the need for additional testing, most of which confirms that no cancer is present.
A mammography report describes details about the x ray appearance of the breasts. It also rates the mammogram according to standardized categories, as part of the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BIRADS) created by the American College of Radiology (ACR). A normal mammogram may be rated as BIRADS 1 or negative, which means no abnormalities were seen. A normal mammogram may also be rated as BIRADS 2 or benign findings. This means that one or more abnormalities were found but are clearly benign (not cancerous), or variations of normal. Some kinds of calcification, lymph nodes, or implants in the breast might generate a BIRADS 2 rating. A BIRADS 0 rating indicates that the mammogram is incomplete and requires further assessment.
Author Info: Ellen S. Weber M.S.N., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer, 2002
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