Mammography is currently the most effective procedure to detect and diagnose diseases of the breast. A "regular" mammogram is generally considered to be a "screening" mammogram for asymptomatic women and is usually ordered as "bilateral," meaning both breasts are screened.
Until recently, mammograms were administered via low-dose X-rays and the image transferred to film for review. Most mammograms today utilise full-field digital mammography (FFDM), commonly referred to as digital mammography. This modality works similar to a digital camera, where the images can be viewed on a computer screen and/or transferred to film. The imaging is greatly enhanced with the digital method and thus preferred. Both techniques utilise low-dose X-rays and are administered in the same manner to capture breast images.
It is generally recommended that asymptomatic women between the ages of 35 to 39 obtain a baseline mammogram. A baseline is established and compared to future mammograms to detect any changes in the breasts.
A screening mammogram is performed to detect any breast cancer as early as possible for the best possible prognosis. The American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) recommend yearly screening mammograms beginning at the age of 40 and annually thereafter.
If a woman has symptoms of breast cancer (lumps, nipple discharge, dimpling, etc.) a diagnostic mammogram is conducted to further study and diagnose any abnormalities in the breast.
Bilateral refers to the right and left sides, or members, of a paired organ in the body. Most mammograms are ordered as bilateral, the exception being when one breast exhibits abnormalities and additional mammography views are needed.
Breast Cancer in Men
Men can also develop breast cancer, but it is very rare (less than 1 per cent of all new breast cancers). However, any suspicious symptoms call for further evaluation.