Mammogram Myths

Four mammogram myths debunked

(RxWiki News) For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we're debunking four common mammogram myths.

Mammograms are low-dose X-ray pictures of the breast. Because mammography can detect breast cancer tumors before they can be felt, screening is very important for early detection. And early breast cancer detection has been linked to higher chances of survival. Speak with your doctor about how often you should be screened for breast cancer. For more information on performing a breast self-exam and detecting breast changes, check out Detecting Breast Cancer Early.

According to an estimate from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), over 60 percent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed before they spread. And about 90 percent of women whose breast cancer was detected and treated are cancer-free at five years.

Because mammography is important for early cancer detection, it's important to not be fooled by the following four myths.

1) Myth: Mammograms Are Not Helpful in Detecting Breast Cancer

Truth: Regular mammograms are the best screening available to help doctors detect breast cancer early. In some cases, mammograms can help detect breast cancer up to three years before it can be felt.

2) Myth: Mammograms Cause Cancer

Truth: Mammograms use very small doses of radiation. Having a mammogram done is like getting an X-ray.

Due to continuous improvements in technology, the radiation doses used during mammography have continued to decrease. Plus, mammograms continue to improve in terms of accuracy. The benefits of detecting and treating breast cancer outweigh the small risk of harm from radiation exposure.

3) Myth: Mammograms Are Not Accurate

Truth: Mammograms may not be 100 percent perfect, but they are the best screening tool available for early detection. In fact, when breast cancer is present, mammograms are around 80 percent e­ffective at detecting it.

False negatives are a possibility and may occur around 20 percent of the time. False negatives are when a mammogram fails to detect breast cancer.

On the flip side, false positives are also possible. This means the results from a mammogram indicate there is cancer, but in reality, there is no cancer.

Although both false negatives and false positives are possible, regular screenings and follow-up with additional testing can help negate these possibilities.

4) Myth: Thermograms and Nipple Aspirators Are a Substitute for Mammograms

Truth: The FDA has no evidence to support the use and reliability of thermograms or nipple aspirators in detecting breast cancer.

Thermograms produce a picture that highlights the patterns of blood flow and heat near the body's surface. Some have claimed that thermograms can replace mammograms and that they actually can find breast cancer earlier than mammograms.

Nipple aspirators collect fluid from the nipple using a breast pump. The fluid is then analyzed for abnormal and potentially cancerous cells. Some have also claimed that this test is an effective screening tool for detecting breast cancer.