Mammograms: Facing the machine


Daily Journal

No matter what set of breast cancer screening guidelines they follow, most women will find themselves in front of a mammography unit sooner or later.

And they don’t need to be afraid or embarrassed by the experience.

“For some people it is uncomfortable, but it’s nothing unbearable,” said Sherry Craig, director of the NMMC Breast Care Center in Tupelo.

The process has improved, mammography technologists say.

“The machines aren’t metal anymore,” so there’s no cold chill, said Tabitha Burk, a technologist at Baptist Cancer and Diagnostic Center in Oxford.

The breast tissue does have to be compressed to capture a good image, but it shouldn’t be painful.

“The paddles flex with you instead of making you flex with them,” said Baptist mammography technologist Beth Graham. “You still have compression, but it’s not like it used to be.”

For women with sensitivity, reducing caffeine or nicotine for a few days before their visit may be helpful, Craig said.

Mammography is most effective when radiologists can compare previous images, Thomas said. They can see small changes over time, and likewise rule out suspicious spots that have remained stable.

“It’s best to have mammograms at the same place,” Thomas said, or make sure you have your previous mammogram images available at the time of the mammogram.

When women come in for a screening mammogram, the technologist usually takes two views. Usually, they don’t wait for the radiologist to read the results.

If there’s something suspicious, the women will get called back for additional views.

For younger women, who typically have more dense breast tissue, mammogram is often paired with an ultrasound.

“They work together,” said radiologist Dr. James Thomas, who works with The Imaging Center in Tupelo.

If the radiologist can’t resolve their concerns, they typically recommend a biopsy.

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