A: A mammogram is the most effective way to find breast cancer early, up to two years before the lump is even large enough to feel. A mammogram is a special kind of x-ray of your breasts. A radiologist will look at the x-rays for signs of cancer or other breast problems.
Mammograms can detect cancer because cancer is denser (thicker) than the normal part of the breast. Mammograms are safe because the amount of radiation used in the x-ray is very small.
Q: How is a mammogram performed?
A: Your breast will rest on a shelf and the x-ray machine will be slowly pressed against your breast until you feel pressure. This pressure is needed to spread your breast out so that a better x-ray can be taken. The pressure is just for a moment while each picture is taken.
Q: Do mammograms hurt?
A: Mammograms can be uncomfortable. To get a good picture, the breast has to be squeezed, but they don't take very long.
Q: How often should I get a mammogram?
A: If you're over 50, get a mammogram on a regular basis, usually every 1 to 2 years, after you talk with your family doctor.
If you have risk factors for breast cancer, such as a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may want you to have mammograms more often or start having them sooner.
For more information on this and other health topics, visit the College of Family Physicians of Canada's (CFPC's) Web site www.cfpc.ca or talk to your family doctor.
If you have questions on this or other health topics you'd like to see addressed in future articles, please e-mail healthtopics@CFPC.ca.