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Can breast cancer be detected through a mammogram ?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2003
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I am a 46-year-old female with a strong familial background of breast cancer, each occurring late in my relatives' lives and none fatal. Two months ago, I had my doctor do a very thorough manual check of my breasts, and he said he felt nothing amiss. Today I finally had my yearly mammogram, after putting it off for six months for fear of the outcome. I will not know the results until tomorrow or the next day. I am very worried. What are the chances of something being detected in my mammogram, given that my manual exam was normal?
Posted Thu, 19 Apr 2012 in Breast Cancer
Answered by Dr. Deepak Anvekar 1 hour later
Hello and thanks for your query.

From the description it seems that you are very apprehensive about cancer.

A mammogram is an X-ray test of the breasts (mammary glands) used to screen for breast problems, such as a lump, and whether a lump is fluid-filled (a cyst) or a solid mass. It is very important to know that mammograms are very important to be done in any women above the age of 40 years.

For your information, In women less than 40 yrs โ€“ mammograms help to detect 12 % cases of breast cancer, not detected otherwise. while in women > 50 yrs โ€“ 30% โ€Žof women are detected to have breast cancer.

Both mammogram and Breast self examination - are means to screen breast lumps, but both do have their limitations. Hence for routine screening, a combination of clinical examination and a mammogram is used.

Usually when manual examination of the breast is negative, the chances for a mammogram to show any abnormal results will be lesser.

But if breast examination, detects any lumps or masses, then a mammogram might show more specific findings.

Both clinical examination and mammogram when used alone have a tendency to miss breast lesions. Hence for a complete and effective screening of breast masses combination of both will be more effective.

Screening that included both a clinical exam and a mammogram was 95% effective at detecting breast cancer.

Screening using mammogram alone was 89% effective at detecting breast cancer. This indicates that though the breast examination in your case, did not detect any major lesions, that can be felt, 89% of smaller lesions that would have missed can be detected by a mammogram.

I hope the information provided above helps to clarify the importance of mammography in the screening of breast cancer.

I shall be available to answer any follow up questions, or any doubts that you might be having.


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