Although there has been some progress in women's health among Hispanics over the last few decades, Hispanic women still lag behind in some key screening tests, including mammography.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), "breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic American/Latina women."
Also, Hispanic women are more likely to diagnosed with more advanced tumors, possibly because of infrequent or delayed mammography screening. Clearly more has to be done to make Hispanic women aware of the importance of early detection and screening.
A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breasts. It is used to find tumors and cysts, and to help tell the difference between noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) disease.
How the Mammography test is performed
You will be asked to undress from the waist up and will be given a gown to wear. Depending on the type of equipment used, you will sit or stand.
One breast at a time is rested on a flat surface that contains the x-ray plate, and a device called a compressor will be pressed firmly against the breast to help flatten out the breast tissue.
The x-ray pictures are taken from several angles. You may be asked to hold your breath as each picture is taken.
How to prepare for the Mammography test
Do not wear deodorant, perfume, powders, or ointments under the arms or on the breasts on the day of the mammogram. These substances may obscure the images. Remove all jewelry from your neck.
Notify your health care provider (and/or the radiologist) if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
How the Mammography test will feel
When the breast is compressed, there may be some discomfort.
Why the Mammography test is performed
Mammography is performed to screen healthy women for signs of breast cancer. It is also used to evaluate a woman who has symptoms of a breast disease, such as a lump, nipple discharge, breast pain, dimpling of the skin on the breast, or retraction of the nipple.
Screening mammograms are important for early breast cancer detection. The American Cancer Society recommends mammogram screening every year for all women age 40 and older. The National Cancer Institute recommends mammogram screening every 1 to 2 years for women age 40 and older.
In addition to mammography, clinical breast exams (where the clinician palpates with the fingers) and breast self-examinations are important for breast cancer screening. Women age 20 and older should receive clinical breast exams every 3 years; women age 40 and older should receive clinical breast exams every year. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women age 20 and older perform monthly breast self-examination.
These are general recommendations for mammography, clinical breast exams, and breast self-exam. Women should discuss with their personal physician how often to receive breast cancer screening, including mammography and clinical breast exam. Recommendations vary depending on personal risk factors such a strong family history of breast cancer.
Mammography Normal Values
Breast tissue that shows no evidence of mass (aggregations of cells) or calcification is considered normal.
What abnormal Mammography results mean
A well-outlined, regular, clear spot is more likely to be a benign lesion, such as a cyst (non-cancerous).
A poorly outlined, opaque area is more likely to suggest breast cancer. However, not all benign lesions are perfectly round, and some cancers may appear well-defined. Sometimes, the doctor will use ultrasound to further examine the abnormality and evaluate the next best step. When findings from a mammogram or ultrasound look suspicious, a biopsy is performed to determine if a lesion is benign or cancerous.
Conditions under which the test may be performed include the following:
What the risks are with Mammography
The level of radiation is low and any risk from mammography is exceedingly low. If you are pregnant and need to have an abnormality checked, the abdominal area will be shielded by a lead apron.
Mammography Special considerations
Mammography is important because it can, in some cases, detect breast cancers before you can feel them with your fingers.
The female breast is either of two mammary glands (organs of milk secretion) on the chest.
Less than one-fourth of all breast lumps are found to be cancerous, but benign breast disease can be difficult to distinguish from cancer. Consequently, all breast lumps should be checked by a health care professional.
Most breast lumps are benign, as in fibroadenoma, a condition that affects mostly women under age 30. Fibrocystic breast disease is present in over 60% of all women. The cysts in FBD change in size with the menstrual cycle, whereas a lump from fibroadenoma does not. While most breast lumps are benign it is important to identify those that are not. If a lump is new, persistent, growing, hard, immobile, or causing skin deformities, you should see a health care professional.
The anatomy of the breast includes the lactiferous, or milk ducts, and the mammary lobules.
Mammography is a low-powered x-ray technique that captures a picture of the internal structure of the breast. Additional angles and magnified views are taken of suspicious areas. A mammogram may help in the diagnosis of breast problems, including cancer. It is recommended a woman have a baseline mammogram at age 40, followed by a mammogram every couple of years until age 50. After 50, a woman should have a mammogram every year.
Abnormal nipple discharge may be described as any discharge not associated with lactation. The nature of the discharge may range in color, consistency and composition, and occur in one or both breasts.
Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Fibrocystic breast disease is a common and benign change within the breast characterized by a dense irregular and bumpy consistency in the breast tissue. Mammography or biopsy may be needed to rule out other disorders.
[Article from the MedLine Plus Medical Encyclopedia of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.]
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