Overall awareness of any changes or abnormalities of the breast tissue is the key to catching cancer in its early stages. Mammography coupled with regular self-breast examinations and an annual physical exam by your physician can dramatically reduce the likelihood of cancer going unnoticed until the latent stages.
Mammography is a non-invasive imaging technique that allows doctors to detect the development of breast cancer early. Using X-ray technology, doctors are able to notate abnormalities in the breast tissue that might not visible on an initial physical exam.
Digital mammography uses computer and specially designed digital detectors to produce an image that can be displayed on a high-resolution computer monitor, transmitted and stored just like computer files.
From a patient’s point of view, having a digital mammogram is very much like having a conventional screen-film mammogram. Both film and digital mammography use compression and X-rays to create clear images of the inside of the breast.
With digital mammography, the radiologist reviews electronic images of the breast, using special high-resolution monitors. The physician can adjust the brightness, change contrast and zoom in for close-ups of specific areas of interest. Being able to manipulate images is one of the main benefits of digital technology.
Another convenience of digital mammography over film-based systems is it can greatly reduce the need for retakes due to over- or under-exposure. This potentially saves time and reduces the patient’s exposure to X-rays.
Because they are electronic, digital images can also be easily stored, copied without any loss of information and transmitted and received in a more streamlined manner eliminating dependence on only one set of original films.
All women over 40 years of age should receive yearly mammograms to monitor any changes that might occur over time. However, family history or predisposing factors could indicate the need to start getting mammograms earlier or more frequently.
Awareness of the look and feel of the breasts is another important part of prevention. It is important to consult a physician if any of the following changes are noted:
• Swelling of the breast tissue
• Lumps or knots
• Discharge from the nipples
• Swelling or redness
• Pain or discomfort that does not resolve
Some of the biggest risk factors that indicate a predisposition for breast cancer include age, race and family history of cancer. However, being overweight after menopause is also a significant factor. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active and limiting alcohol consumption are all ways to reduce the likelihood of breast cancer.
The Diagnostic Breast Care Center recently added digital mammography to Northern Nevada Medical Center’s woman’s health diagnostic services. We have chosen the Selenia Digital Mammography system from Hologic because we believe it offers the best technology available. We encourage women to play an active role in their health by getting a mammogram, so we are offering discounted mammograms during the months of February and March. To schedule an appointment with the Northern Nevada Medical Center’s Diagnostic Breast Care Center, call 356-5800.
Randall Pierce, MD, earned his medical degree from the University of California at San Francisco, and he completed his residency at the University of California at San Diego. Pierce is medical director for Diagnostic Imaging at Northern Nevada Medical Center.