While mammograms should be performed on a yearly basis along with a woman’s regular gynecological exam, doctors recommend women perform monthly self-breast exams. A breast self-exam can uncover small lumps and nodules while they are in their earliest stages. If a small lump is found, the doctor can immediately schedule an MRI and mammogram to determine what it is and if any type of treatment is necessary.
In most cases, these small cysts are benign and cause no harm. They will dissolve on their own without any type of treatment. If the MRI and mammogram show the cyst to be questionable, the doctor will remove it and perform a biopsy.
Mammograms can show many different things. They can identify calcifications that appear as small specks on the film. Clusters of microcalcifications are also shown. Mammograms can easily identify cysts that are filled with fluid. Cancerous tumors are solid and do not contain any fluids.
Fibroadenomas are small round nodules made of breast tissue. They are solid and move from place to place, unlike cancer tumors that normally remain in one place. Mammograms can discern each of these abnormalities, allowing the doctor to correctly diagnose a patient’s condition and provide the appropriate form of treatment.
A comprehensive breast cancer screening involves three main components. A clinical breast exam is performed by the doctor, in which the breast is examined for abnormalities and palpated in an attempt to discern any lumps or nodules that may be present. A mammogram is performed to determine if any lumps or cysts are present. An MRI is also performed to evaluate the consistency of the breast tissue and identify any abnormalities or cysts that may have been missed during the clinical breast exam and mammogram.
By using these three tests, as well as the patient’s ongoing self examinations, doctors can detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.
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