Breast screening helps detect cancer or any other abnormalities at an early stage. This can be significant as breast cancer can be treated early, before it starts to spread. Women are advised to get their mammograms done annually. This applies to women right from when they have 3 months to turn 40, and over. Women under 40 can also get breast screening done to detect cancer, but are restricted via which method due to their denser breast tissue.
Types of breast screening
Mammograms are the most common breast screening method to help detecting cancer in the breasts. Low-energy X-rays are used to detect cancerous cells that are difficult to see or feel. Mammograms are not suited for every age group. Women below the age of 40 are not advised to take a mammogram, unless there is a serious concern or high risk – i.e. a woman who has a family history of breast cancer.
Types of mammogram
- 2D mammogram – the mammogram takes pictures of each breast from the front and the sides, and creates a single image.
- 3D mammogram – the mammogram takes various pictures of each breasts, from different angles, and creates a 3D image.
Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the internal breast tissues. A special gel is spread onto the breasts and a transducer, a small hand-held probe, which emits sound waves, is passed over the area. The echoes are converted into an image of the breast tissue, which is then reviewed by a radiologist who produces a report. Ultrasound scans are pain-free and are recommended for patients under the age of 40. For women who are 40 and above, the ultrasound is typically done in conjunction with their mammogram as a more supportive breast screening report.