Mammography - Early Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer, Screening

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Mammography - Early Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer, Screening
Mammography - Early Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer, Screening
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Video: How To Catch Breast Cancer Early: Stanford Doctors Explain Mammography Options 2023, February


Mammography is a special type of chest x-ray. With the help of chest x-rays, small, non-palpable early stages of breast cancer can also be detected. Quality-assured mammography screening is currently considered the most reliable method for the early detection of breast cancer. Before the examination, the woman should be informed by the doctor about the benefits of early mammography detection, but also about possible negative consequences. In addition, diagnostic mammograms can be performed to clarify breast problems.


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  • When is a mammogram necessary?
  • Preparing for a mammogram
  • How does a mammography work?
  • What are the side effects / complications?
  • Where is a mammogram performed?
  • How are the costs going to be covered?

When is a mammogram necessary?

A fundamental distinction is made between diagnostic mammograms and screening mammograms.

Diagnostic mammograms

Diagnostic mammograms are those examinations that are carried out to clarify symptoms in the breast, such as pain, palpable lumps, fluid secretions from the nipple, etc. Diagnostic mammograms are also performed on women who have a family history of developing breast cancer, as well as on women who already suffer from it.

If the mammography reveals very radiopaque breast tissue (often in women under 45 years of age or women with mastopathy), an ultrasound examination of the breast is also recommended, as pathological changes are difficult to detect in a very "radiopaque" breast.

Screening mammograms

Screening mammograms, on the other hand, are examinations that are carried out in symptom-free women and are used for the early detection of breast cancer. On January 1, 2014, a nationwide breast cancer early detection program started in Austria. The advantages include uniform high quality standards and an Austria-wide systematic process. Women between the ages of 45 and 69 are invited in writing to an examination every two years by post. Uninsured women in this age group as well as younger women from 40 years of age and older women up to 75 years of age can request an invitation. For more information, see Breast Cancer Early Detection New.

Preparing for a mammogram

You should wear clothes that are easy to take off on the day of the exam, as you will have to strip to your waist. Do not use deodorant, powder or cream on the chest or armpit area as this can affect the quality of the X-ray images.

How does a mammography work?

In mammography, each breast is pressed together between two plastic sheets. An image is created using X-rays. Usually two to three x-rays are taken in different positions of each breast in order to generate the most meaningful image possible. Mammography can be uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, due to the squeezing of the chest. However, the pressure is necessary in order to be able to create high-quality images with the lowest possible radiation dose. An examination takes a few minutes.

A negative result means that no changes could be found. If the result is positive, your doctor will carry out further tests for an accurate diagnosis.

What are the side effects / complications?

The radiation exposure is low thanks to the use of new digital devices and good technical quality assurance. The mean radiation dose for modern mammography is around 0.2 to 0.3 mSv (millisievert). This radiation exposure is comparable to a one-week stay in the mountains. The sensitivity of breast tissue to radiation is greatest in women under the age of 30.

It can happen that the detected changes turn out to be a "false alarm" if the result is positive. These cases are known as false positive mammograms. The benign character of such a change in the breast is proven by a tissue removal, which can avoid unnecessary treatments. It is also very rare for a woman to have breast cancer in spite of normal mammography results and for this to be detected at a later point in time. This is known as a false negative finding. In order to reduce the rate of false-negative findings, additional examination methods such as ultrasound or MRI are used if there is a corresponding medical indication.

Where is a mammogram performed?

A mammography is performed in ordinations or institutes by resident specialists for radiology as well as in special departments of hospitals and breast centers. To do this, you will need a referral from a general practitioner or a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics.

In the case of participation in the breast cancer screening program, the invitation received and an appointment are sufficient. The examinations are only evaluated by specially trained ("certified") radiologists.

Note With the help of the first and the following mammograms, your doctor can see in later examinations how the breast tissue changes over time. You should therefore keep all mammography images so that you can show them to the doctor if necessary.

How are the costs going to be covered?

The costs for diagnostic mammograms are covered in full by the social security institutions, regardless of the woman's age. The breast cancer screening program is generally free for the intended age group. The official program website provides details on how the costs will be covered.

Additional Information:

  • Breast cancer: diagnosis using imaging
  • Early detection of breast cancer

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