The most commonly diagnosed cancer for women in Australia, breast cancer will affect nearly 1 in 8 women in their lifetimes. While a very small percentage of men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, those most at risk are women. Risk also increases with age, so older women are typically more at risk than their younger counterparts. Family medical history also plays a role; women who have a close female relative who was diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50 may be at greater risk of developing the disease themselves. Research is still ongoing regarding the possible causes of breast cancer. But while we don’t know the cause, and while you cannot change your family history, gender, or age, there are a few key steps you can take to reduce your risk as much as possible, and give yourself the best chance to prevent this disease.
1. Move your body regularly.
Ample research suggests that regular exercise can reduce your breast cancer risk, as well as help prevent the onset of other conditions. Even moderate exercise a few times per week has been shown to have tremendous benefits. As a bonus, an exercise habit can help you lose weight: another factor shown to contribute to a reduced breast cancer risk.
2. Limit your alcohol consumption.
Numerous studies have linked alcohol consumption to an increased breast cancer risk. Excessive alcohol intake can negatively impact other areas of your health, so it is always wise to consume in moderation. Experts suggest no more than two standard glasses per day is appropriate.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
Being overweight or obese is connected to a higher breast cancer risk, as well as an increased chance of heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments. Eating right and exercising regularly can help you lose weight and achieve a healthy size for your body type. Maintaining a healthy weight is especially important for postmenopausal women.
4. Breastfeed your children.
There are a number of studies that associate breastfeeding with a lowered breast cancer risk. It is most advantageous to breastfeed for longer periods, preferably one year or more, and beneficial to breastfeed multiple children. Other studies have found a link between having children and a reduced breast cancer risk. However, some research argues that having your first child after the age of 30 slightly increases your risk.
5. Get checked.
Alongside the above lifestyle choices, it is vital to have your breasts checked regularly. You should habitually perform a monthly self-exam, and regular assessment by your doctor. Women over the age of 40 should schedule annual mammograms, or if you have a mother, sister, or daughter who has been diagnosed, you may opt to begin mammograms sooner.
At Vision XRAY, your care is our priority. If you’d like further information on self breast exams and screening options such as ultrasound, mammography, or MRI, please contact us today. We also offer comprehensive exams at our dedicated Australian Breast Centres. Please do not hesitate to contact our radiology team. We are happy to speak with you and address any concerns you may have regarding your breast health.
At Vision XRAY, one of our most common radiological services is the mammogram. Mammography is a special kind of XRAY technology that is used exclusively to examine the breasts. Because this is a common scan, many of our patients have a lot of questions about what to expect. We at Vision XRAY believe that providing information to our patients is the best way to make them feel comfortable and prepared. Today we address some of our most frequently asked questions regarding mammography.
Who should get a mammogram?
From the age of 40, women should begin getting regular mammograms. The risk of developing breast cancer grows as women age. Younger women (30-40 years old) should have a mammogram and ultrasound if they have a symptom. Women with a family history of breast cancer may benefit from beginning regular mammograms earlier. You can discuss this with your doctor or radiologist.
Are mammograms reliable?
When women ask about the reliability of mammography, they are generally asking about its effectiveness in cancer detection. In combination with breast ultrasound, mammography has a rate of accurate cancer detection in more than 90% of cases. Mammography should be used in conjunction with ultrasound in women who have a symptom and those who have higher breast tissue density (usually women under 50 years).
How long does the mammogram take?
A mammogram is a fairly short scan. Your entire appointment should not last more than 30 minutes.
Is a mammogram painful?
Many patients feel anxious about their mammogram as they anticipate experiencing pain. The procedure is brief, and most would describe it as uncomfortable. During the mammogram, each breast is compressed individually for several seconds between two plates. This allows for the clearest possible images.
Is there a risk of radiation exposure?
A mammogram is a type of low dose x-ray, and thus uses ionising radiation to create images of the body. So, the short answer is yes, you will be exposed to radiation albeit a very low dose. Our team is dedicated to controlling and minimising all radiation exposure. Digital mammography uses the lowest possible doses that allow for effective imaging. Your safety and care is our highest priority. The benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.
What type of equipment does Vision XRAY use?
We use digital mammography technology, which is more advanced and generates images which are easier to study at a lower radiation dose. Our ultrasound machines are high resolution, providing more accurate assessment. With all of our equipment, Vision XRAY is committed to using only the most advanced and well-reputed equipment, consistently maintained and updated.
What happens during the screening?
Please arrive a few minutes early for your appointment. You should refrain from wearing powders or lotions as these could interfere with the imaging. The radiographer will have you undress from the waist up, standing in front of the machine. One breast at a time will be placed between the two plates for scanning to provide a comprehensive picture. The breast tissue will then be slowly compressed to even it out and optimise the images. Two images are usually taken of each breast.
Vision XRAY offers a comprehensive breast imaging service at our Australian Breast Centre. Our team of experts offer clinical assessment, imaging and biopsy as required. If you have any queries or concern we would be happy to discuss them with you.
When it comes to medical diagnosis and treatment, physicians and other practitioners use a vast range of procedures, methods, and tools in their care. Radiology plays a major role in the medical arena, and its importance only continues to grow as technology and science contribute continuous new advancements to the field. Radiologists work with a variety of scans, but the most commonly used are CT scan, MRI, general x-ray, and ultrasound. Depending on the nature of the injury or illness, a radiologist may use a single type of scan or use several scans in combination. How does the radiologist determine which scan to use in patient diagnosis and treatment?
A Closer Look at Common Radiology Scans
The x-ray is the most broadly used type of scan, and most people have probably had at least one x-ray in their life; dentists use x-rays to assist them in the proper treatment of patients’ teeth, for example. The x-ray scan uses electromagnetic energy waves to create images of the bones and other interior structures.
A CT (computerised tomography) scan is a more advanced x-ray which rotates to provide cross-sections of internal images. Using a higher dose of radiation, the CT is able to produce a much more detailed scan, which becomes important when diagnosing or treating certain types of issues.
Ultrasound is well-known for its use in monitoring pregnancy and providing images of the growing foetus inside the mother. Ultrasound technology does not use ionising radiation like the x-ray or CT scan, but uses sound waves to build images of the patient’s body.
Like the ultrasound, MRI, or Magnetic resonance imaging, does not utilise ionising radiation in its scans. Rather, MRIs work with magnets and radio waves to capture their internal images. An MRI is a scan which takes longer to complete, but the pictures it can produce are highly detailed.
Practical Applications of Radiology Scans
X-rays are very common, particularly for more “visible” ailments such as injuries. For broken bones or an overview of an internal organs, x-rays might be the best choice. Fast and effective, an x-ray produces an adequate scan with a reasonable dose of radiation. X-rays are generally considered the right scan for imaging bones, which explains their extensive use in dentistry.
A mammogram is specialised type of x-ray, used to scan women’s breasts for early indications of breast cancer. It is typically recommended for older women or those with a family history of breast cancer to be scanned yearly. In terms of early diagnosis, mammography is highly effective. Using x-ray technology, it does expose the patient to radiation, so its use should be as limited as possible and used minimally in young women.
When common x-ray is not appropriate, the more advanced CT scan might be chosen. The majority of CT scans use a significantly higher dose of radiation than the x-ray, but CT produces an image with much greater detail, as it creates 3D cross-section pictures of the patient. To minimise radiation exposure, CT scans can be highly localised onto the area of the patient’s body under analysis. A radiologist might choose to use a CT scan in cases of testing for abnormalities such as tumours or blood clots. Physicians often elect to use CT scans during surgeries or other tests to assist with navigating during the procedure, for example with the delicate workings of endoscopic sinus surgery.
Ultrasound is the scan of choice for observing growing babies within the mother’s womb. Ultrasound technology has grown by leaps and bounds, and extremely detailed images can now be procured. This technology is useful to radiologists as it does not subject the patient to any form of potentially harmful radiation, which is particularly important for the expectant mother. Additionally, ultrasound can be used for other purposes, such as soft tissue scans of the pelvis, extremities, neck, and abdomen or for musculoskeletal ultrasound: scanning for abnormalities in joints, muscles, and tendons. The radiologist might choose such a scan if other scans would unnecessarily expose a vulnerable patient to radiation.
Unfortunately, ultrasound is sometimes not effective enough to complete a full diagnosis. When scanning for cancerous lumps, for instance, ultrasound may be performed first followed by the more detailed MRI or CT scan. In their work, careful radiologists try to opt for the scan which presents the least possible risk for patients, but in some cases, additional, more advanced technology is required to form an accurate diagnosis. As always, the advantages and the risks will be weighed and the most beneficial course of action chosen.
MRIs and CT scans are both tools which offer a high level of detail. In many cases, a radiologist will decide which to use between these two scans. While both are very effective, the area of the body under evaluation will often guide the radiologist in his or her decision. MRIs are a good choice for scans of the ligaments, tendons, or spinal cord, as MRI tends to produce images with better density. Conversely, a CT scan might be selected in the case of internal organ injury or when testing for blood clots, tumours, or other masses.
Choosing the Right Scan for the Job
Which scan to use depends upon many factors. The radiologist typically works closely with the patient’s physician, and together they determine which scan(s) will be most effective for their patient’s needs. In addition to selecting the scan which will provide the highest level of detail, radiologists must also consider what scans tend to produce the best images and results for the specific ailment in question. Other considerations include the patient’s age, level of health, and previous exposure to radiation. The radiologist will select the best tool for the job as well as the scan that will be safest for their patient. It’s important for the physician and radiologist to strike the proper balance between efficacy and protection. At Vision XRAY, our radiologists strive to minimise radiation whenever possible, and the health and safety of our patients is always our priority.
Many physicians and radiologists the world over agree that self breast exams can be instrumental in assisting with early breast cancer detection. Once a month is the recommended frequency, and a self breast exam can be done easily, at home, and takes only about 5 minutes of your time. For women with a family history of breast cancer, self exams are vital, as are regular mammogram and ultrasound scans after a certain age. But for all women, becoming familiar with your own body and self-monitoring for any changes can help you detect any problems as soon as they become apparent.
How To Perform a Self Breast Exam
A self breast exam only requires a few minutes of your time. Many physicians recommend performing the exam while you’re in the shower, but there are a few different methods and positions you can use to examine yourself. The National Breast Cancer Foundation in the US provides a comprehensive explanation of self breast exams. To check your breasts, first do a visual inspection. It is important to look for any visible changes in the breast shape or tissue, particularly any dimpling or changes affecting only one breast or one side. Following this, you can perform a manual exam. Pressing your fingers gently but firmly, move them in a circular pattern starting from the outside of the breast and working your way inward. As you feel, take note of anything which feels unusual, hard, or lumpy. Make sure to examine your armpits for any signs of lumps or changes as well.
What if I Find a Lump?
If you detect a lump or notice any other changes or abnormalities in your breasts, you should consult with a physician. The majority of lumps prove noncancerous, and getting more comprehensive exams can help set your mind at ease or, in the event that you do require some treatment, get you started as soon as possible.
If your physician recommends diagnostic scans to examine a lump, you will probably begin with a basic breast ultrasound. Painless and completely noninvasive, ultrasound can be effective in determining the density of any mass found in the breast tissue. There is no radiation associated with this scan. The ultrasound can indicate whether further tests are needed.
Breast MRI and mammography are other diagnostic options which may be employed if your physician and radiologist find it necessary. At Vision XRAY, we always strive to perform only those scans and tests which are most necessary and best recommended for each particular case.
A Focus on Regular Exams
Self breast exams, while important, are not a foolproof or fully effective method of diagnosis. The recommendation to perform them regularly emphasises the importance of becoming familiar with one’s own breast tissue, resulting in better, faster recognition when something may be wrong, or when changes appear. This can lead to more rapid diagnosis and treatment in some cases. However, self breast exam is no substitute for the inspection and guidance of a qualified physician. In addition to examining your breasts frequently, leading research recommends your breasts be examined by a doctor every 1-3 years (once per year after the age of 40). With regular, comprehensive checkups, you can feel secure about the health of your breasts.
For more information about self breast exams, breast ultrasound, mammography, and MRI, or to learn more about our dedicated Australian Breast Centres, please contact us at Vision XRAY today. We will be happy to speak with you and address any concerns regarding breast health.