Mammograms and Breast Cancer
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is
part of the United States Government. It is one of FDA's
jobs to inspect and certify facilities that do mammograms.
What Is A Mammogram?
A mammogram is a special kind of x-ray of
the breasts. Mammograms are used to help find breast cancer
early, when it can still be cured. Mammograms are recommended
for women over 40 years old even if they have no signs of
What About Younger Women?
Mammograms are also recommended for younger
women who have symptoms of breast cancer or who have a high
risk of getting breast cancer.
Why Are Mammograms Important?
A mammogram can save your life. Mammograms
can show tumors that may be cancer long before they can
be felt. Treating tumors when they are still small makes
curing cancer easier.
You usually need to go to a special clinic
to get a mammogram. FDA inspects and certifies all places
in the United States where mammograms are done.
Look for the FDA certificate at the clinic
where you go for your mammogram. FDA certification means
the clinic's equipment and staff meet federal standards
and that your mammogram will be safe and of high quality.
Who Gets Breast Cancer?
Any woman can get breast cancer. Each year,
about 185,000 women in the United States get breast cancer
and about 44,000 die from it.
You may be more likely to get breast cancer if you:
- Have a mother or sister who had breast cancer.
- Have inherited certain genes. These genes are more
common in people with Jewish ancestors from Eastern
- Had your first menstrual period before you were 12.
- Stopped having periods after you were 50.
- Never had children or had your first child when you
were over 30.
- Have had radiation treatments to your chest area.
Also, the older you are, the more likely
you are to get breast cancer. Remember, though, that one
out of four women who get breast cancer don't have any of
How To Examine Your Breasts
1) Look at your breasts in a mirror
to see if there is anything you haven't noticed before such as:
- discharge from the nipples
- change in how the nipple looks
- change in how the skin looks.
2) Still looking in the mirror, join
your hands behind your head and press them gently against
the back of your neck. Are there any changes from last month
in how your breasts look?
3) Still looking in the mirror, press
your hands on your hips. Bow slightly forward, pulling your
shoulders and elbows forward. Look for changes since last
month in how your breasts look.
4) When you're in the shower and
your skin is soapy, do this exam. Raise your left arm. Using
3 or 4 fingers of your right hand, begin at the outer edge
of your breast. Press your fingers firmly into your breast
and slowly move your hand in circles until you reach the
nipple. Make sure you examine the entire breast. In the
same way, examine the area between the breast and armpit,
and then the armpit itself. Do you feel any lump under the
skin? Gently squeeze the nipple. Is there any discharge?
Do the same thing with your right arm raised and your left
hand examining your right breast.
5) Get out of the shower, dry off,
and lie down on your back. Repeat the same exam as in #4.
Examinations Are Important
Three kinds of exams can help detect breast cancer:
- Doctor's exam
It's important to have a doctor examine your
breasts at least once a year. It's also important to examine
your breasts yourself once a month. Some women find it's
easiest to do this at the same time each month, like when
your menstrual period ends.
What If My Mammogram Shows A Problem?
Mammograms can show if the inside of the breast
looks normal. But a mammogram can't show for sure whether
you have breast cancer.
If you have a mammogram that doesn't look
normal, your doctor will probably suggest a biopsy--a tissue
sample of the breast. A biopsy is minor surgery. The breast
tissue from a biopsy is tested in a laboratory to see if
Remember, just because a problem area shows
up on your mammogram that doesn't mean you have cancer.
Cancer can only be diagnosed by a lab test on tissue from
How Breast Cancer Is Treated
There are a number of treatments for breast
cancer. The treatment depends on the type of tumor, whether
the cancer has spread, and other facts you and your doctor
will discuss. Some treatments are:
Lumpectomy--Surgery that removes the
lump or tumor and a small amount of breast tissue around
it, leaving the rest of the breast. A lumpectomy is usually
the preferred treatment when cancer hasn't spread outside
Total Mastectomy--Surgery that removes
the entire breast and usually the adjoining lymph nodes.
This may be necessary when there is more than one cancer
in the breast, or when a single cancer is large when compared
to the breast. Breast reconstruction is usually available
to women who have had a breast removed. If you have a breast
removed, you may want to talk with your doctor about various
types of surgical breast reconstruction and decide if reconstruction
is right for you.
Radiation Therapy--Radiation from
special equipment is aimed at the tumor to kill cancer cells
and shrink the tumor.
Treatment with one or more drugs.
Radiation and drug treatment are often given
How To Find A Clinic
To find out what mammography clinics in your
area are certified by FDA, call 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
or a local chapter of the American Cancer Society listed
in your phone book. If you are hearing impaired, you can
call 1-800-332-8615 TTY.
Do You Have More Questions?
FDA may have an office near you. Look for
their number in the blue pages of the phone book.
You can also contact FDA through its toll-free
number, 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).