Why Are Mammograms So Important?

Most women are aware of what mammograms are but might not grasp just how vital they can actually be to their health. Memphis Obstetrics & Gynecological Association is here to help shed some light on the question: Why are mammograms so important?


Understanding Mammograms

A mammogram is a medical imaging technique designed specifically for breast examination. This type of X-ray captures images of the breast tissue, which can, therefore, help our doctors diagnose and detect various breast conditions like cancer. Let’s break it down further:

  • Breast Cancer Screening: Mammograms are a crucial step for cancer detection, most especially for our patients over forty or those with a higher genetic risk for breast cancer.
  • Two Types: A screening mammogram is a routine for women with no symptoms, aiming for early detection of issues. A diagnostic mammogram is a detailed examination to check areas of concern, such as lumps or other changes in breast tissue.
  • Preparation: Before a mammogram, it is recommended to avoid deodorants, powders, or lotions on the day of the exam, as these substances are able to interfere with the imaging process.
  • Procedure: During a mammogram, the breast is compressed between two plates on a machine, helping to spread the tissue out for thorough examination. It also helps to reduce the amount of radiation needed for imaging.
  • Frequency: How often mammograms take place can depend on factors like age, personal health history, or family health history. Generally, routine mammograms are recommended every one or two years for patients over forty.
  • Breast Density: Dense breast tissue (which can be perfectly normal) can make imaging a bit more challenging in terms of detecting abnormalities. In these cases, additional testing or imaging can be conducted through an ultrasound or an MRI. 
  • Limitations: While this is a hugely valuable screening tool, it may not detect all breast cancer, and false-positive or false-negative results can occur. Mammograms should be conducted in conjunction with regular clinical breast exams and breast self-exams to ensure a thorough diagnosis.

In this process, it’s key for women to discuss their individual risk factors with us to determine the best approach for breast health examinations.


Why They Are Important

Now that we have an overview of the process and some of the considerations that go into the exam itself let’s talk about why women need them.

  • Early Detection of Breast Cancer: As with any form of cancer, the hope is that it can be identified as early as possible for interceptive treatment. This can occur before a patient even notices any symptoms. When we catch it early, the treatment outcomes tend to be more positive.
  • Detecting Abnormalities: Irregularities like tumors, cysts, or calcifications can be signs of cancer or other breast conditions. 
  • Monitoring High-Risk Patients: When a patient has a family history of diseases that affect the breasts, mammographies might be advised much earlier on. It is one of the most important tactics for those with increased risk factors. 
  • Guiding Diagnostic Procedures: If an abnormality is detected, further testing, like imaging or a biopsy, can be recommended to confirm the diagnosis and pursue appropriate action.
  • Tracking Changes Over Time: Regular mammograms allow our providers to build a picture of breast tissue over time. Comparing mammograms over a number of years allows for a better understanding of the body’s changes. 
  • Reducing Mortality Rates: Studies show that routine mammography screenings can contribute to a reduction in breast cancer mortality rates due to earlier, more treatable stages of diagnosis. 
  • Educating Women About Breast Health: Mammography allows providers to directly educate patients about the importance of their breast health as they grow, as well as risk factors to be aware of and other instructions. This can even include comprehensive teaching on how to conduct exams at home. 

Why Are Mammograms So Important?

Words of Warning

The consequences of not participating in these screenings may seem a bit obvious, but being aware of them is important. 

  • Advanced Cancer: The longer cancer goes undetected, the more difficult it tends to be to treat. Treatment options can become limited, as well as more aggressive. The odds of a full recovery can also be affected without prompt detection. Late-stage breast cancer can also spread beyond the breast, affecting lymph nodes and other organs.
  • Greater Mental and Physical Toll: These late-stage diagnoses can be a heavy burden for individuals and their families to endure. 
  • Decreased Survival Rates: The most extreme consequence, of course, is a cancer or other condition that does not respond adequately to treatment. As providers, we don’t just care about your living, but we care about your living well. 

Why Are Mammograms So Important?

Giving You the Answers You Need

For some people, the thought of finding out something is wrong with their health is almost too much—they say they would rather not know at all. However, this is not a healthy solution. In order for a problem to get better, it must first be identified as a problem. Our incredible team works diligently to be there for all of our patients, wherever their health journey may lead. If you want to schedule an exam, please contact any of our offices (Wolfchase, East Memphis, Germantown, and DeSoto) at 901-843-1500.