What to expect after your mammogram
10/6/2016 4:11 PM
Mammograms do not prevent cancer, but they are able to detect cancer at a very small size so that it is surgically curable. If the cancer is caught small enough and all of it is removed, the patient is essentially cured. Our goal is to catch cancerous tumors while they are small so we can maximize the chances of a woman getting curative treatment.
At the Central Texas Medical Center (CTMC) Women’s Center for Breast Health, all mammograms are read in real time when the patient is still there. While a woman is in the dressing room, a radiologist is looking at the x-ray images to determine one of two things:
1) Does the mammogram look normal? If so, we will see the patient back in one year.
2) Is there something that we need to look at further? With a traditional mammogram, we get two images of each breast. The x-ray films are black, white and various shades of gray. Breast cancers are white, so that’s what we are looking for.
If I see something abnormal on the mammogram, I speak to the patient before she leaves the appointment to alert her of the situation. Although the abnormality may be cancer, we cannot know for sure until it is biopsied. Before the woman leaves, she is able to set up an appointment for a biopsy.
The majority of what we biopsy is benign, but there are still a significant amount of biopsies that are malignant. Breast Cancer is a treatable, curable disease as long as you catch it when it’s small, so it’s important for women to get a mammogram each year starting at the age of 40. To request a mammogram appointment, visit ctmcmammo.com.
About the Author
Dr. Stephen Swearingen, MD, is a radiologist for San Marcos Medical Imaging.