Breast cancer is an enemy that can be tackled by anticipating it with healthy lifestyles and without letting your guard down thanks to screening. Mammography is crucial in the prevention of breast cancer, which is the most common cancer disease in the female population. Thanks to early diagnosis and effective treatment, the survival of women with breast cancer has improved, with mortality significantly reduced and estimated 5-year survival increasing.
10 useful tips before mammography screening
Screening for breast cancer is aimed at women between the ages of 45 and 74 (https://healthcare-quality.jrc.ec.europa.eu/ecibc/european-breast-cancer-guidelines/screening-ages-and-frequencies) and involves having a mammogram every two or three years, depending on the age group. *
So here is a list of some good practices to keep in mind when we want to join the screening programme:
- Respect the timing of mammography screening according to age and any family predispositions
- Always talk to the family doctor or a specialist first to get all the information about the examination and the centres where it can be carried out
- Anxiety and fear are often uncomfortable companions on this journey of prevention. However, if the examination requires further investigation, early screening and early diagnosis are the allies that can make the difference in the course of treatment.
- Do not procrastinate: therefore write down on your calendar the day and time when you want to have the screening examination in order to have a high probability of booking the examination without procrastination
- On the day of the examination, do not apply deodorants or creams to your skin, as these may alter the image of the mammogram
- Try to relax; discomfort has been shown to increase a negative psychological state
- The doctor is a trustworthy person with whom you can talk and share your anxieties and fears.
- In the case of breast implants, let them know when you book: the centre will be able to tell you if they can perform the examination or refer you to another specialised centre
- Always go to centres that have the latest generation of equipment, which is more reliable and emits less radiation
- Carefully keep your screening records and reports to bring with you to each subsequent medical check-up as the information may be crucial for comparison
*This information is based on European guidelines, check with your doctor the screening programmes are in your country.
How is breast cancer screening done?
Mammography, from a technical point of view, is a radiological examination of the breast that allows early detection of tumours in that part of the body because it is able to detect lumps, even small ones, that are not yet perceptible to the touch. So monthly breast self-examination is a good practice, but it cannot replace mammography screening for women covered by this programme.
It is precisely these organised screening programmes that require the examination to be performed by visualising the breast both top-down and sideways. Greater accuracy in diagnosis is achieved by the evaluation of mammography performed separately by two radiologist physicians.
A positive mammogram is not the same as a definite diagnosis of breast cancer, although it does indicate an increased likelihood of being affected by the disease.
This is why, in the event of a suspicion, the first examination is followed by further diagnostic tests that, again within organised screening programmes, consist of a second mammogram, an ultrasound scan and a clinical examination. These examinations may also be followed by a biopsy to assess the characteristics of any cancer cells. Only upon completion of this pathway is a definite medical response obtained and a course of treatment promptly initiated.