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A mammogram is a simple test that, by means of X-rays, allows us to know the state of the breasts. Thanks to them, the development of cancer that affects this area has slowed enormously in recent decades.  Mammograms are capable of detecting lesions at a very early stage , usually up to two years before those lesions become palpable, allowing less aggressive treatment and preventing further injury.

Importance of mammograms

Although the use of other methods, such as self-examination or medical examination, is very common, they are less effective. While a mammogram can detect 90% of tumors , the physical examination is around 50%. It is for this reason that continuous awareness and information of women is needed to achieve a high degree of completion of the test, and thereby curb the levels of mortality from breast cancer that currently exist in our society.

What does the test consist of?

To carry out the test, a specific X-ray machine is used for this diagnosis. The patient should be placed in front of her, while a specialized technician places one of the breasts on a transparent plate and covers it with another of the same characteristics.

These two plates fulfill a double function. On the one hand, they press on the breast to compress it, which allows the clearest image to be obtained with the least possible radiation. On the other, they keep her immobile while the X-ray is taken. They performed two films for each breast , one front and one side, giving a total of four, which will be reviewed by the technician to ensure that well and have taken no need to repeat.

Types of evidence

The test may be aimed at looking for signs of cancer in women who do not have symptoms, for which a so-called screening mammogram is performed In cases where the examination is performed in women who do have symptoms, a change is seen in screening mammograms, or in some cases where women who have already had breast cancer are examined, carry out a diagnostic mammogram , which is more exhaustive than the screening ones and in which a greater number of images are obtained.

Another typology has to do with the type of technology used. The difference lies in the use of conventional or digital devices to obtain the image . Although the digital procedure is increasingly common, both the technique used and the precision and reliability are the same in both cases . There are, however, studies that advise in some special cases the use of the digital tool, generally due to aspects related to the age of women, for which it is more advisable, if their age is less than 50 years or if they still menstruate , perform digital mammography.

The fundamental difference between the conventional test and the digital one is the nature and the treatment of the images. While in the first case a photographic X-ray is obtained , in the second a digital image is obtained , which is stored in a computer. This digital image allows better manipulation but, on the contrary, and although the idea that it uses three-quarters of conventional radiation is generalized, some researchers consider that at these levels of radiation the quality of the image is doubtful. In fact, in many cases it is preferable to increase the radiation to obtain a reliable image. Given the importance of testing, research continues to advance to obtain better images with as little damage as possible.


The duration of the test is usually about 20 minutes , depending on whether it is done for screening or diagnostic purposes. In the latter case, as a greater number of images have to be taken, the duration is slightly longer.

Although it can be painful in some cases, in general it is that discomfort is perceived, without actually feeling pain. It is advised that the test be carried out one week after the menstrual period , at which time the breasts are less sensitive, so that pain can be avoided. In any case, these sensations are only perceived for seconds and are not extendable to the entire period of time that the test lasts.


Although radiation is a factor that must be taken into account, the truth is that it should not be a cause for alarm. The doses received are not very high , being equivalent to what a person receives in a natural environment in a period of seven weeks. However, for this reason the abuse of the test is not advisable either. The benefits obtained are greater than the radiation received, but it is necessary to allow a period of time between tests and follow the advice of the specialist

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Age of mammograms

There are many controversies about the age at which regular mammograms should begin. The age recommended by most specialists and researchers is around 50 years , with the exception of women with a family history. In these situations, it is usually ahead of 40 years . However, there are few cases in which it is carried out before that age, mainly due to the fact that the data obtained in various investigations show that the tests have less reliability as the age of the woman decreases.

One of the main reasons why the test is less reliable at a younger age is the density of the breast, since at younger ages the amount of glandular tissue is greater, a fact that causes the image obtained to be less sharp, and that therefore, there is greater difficulty in detecting an injury.

In addition to the certainty of the test, specialists must consider a number of equally problematic factors, among which the false positive stands out . This abnormality consists of a positive detection in women who do not have cancer, and as a result, they may undergo unnecessary tests and treatments. Another important factor is the excess radiation that can accumulate over time by performing the test periodically.

Likewise, from the age of 30 there is the possibility of suffering from breast cancer, although it is considered rare for it to appear before the age of 40. However, it is possible and advisable to pay attention from an early age , before the risks increase. For this purpose, the physical examination, both one’s own and that of the specialist, is vital, since some studies have shown that the diagnostic test can be considered more reliable at an early age than the detection test.. In this way, it is really important and advisable to be aware of early symptoms from the age of 30, taking it as a common practice, but avoiding excess alertness. We must bear in mind those few probabilities that exist. Cases with a family history are more special and good communication with the doctor is recommended, as well as following his recommendations.

Prevention and early detection statistics

Although the test, for the reasons stated, usually begins to be carried out periodically after the age of 50, the truth is that the statistics point to a high number of positive diagnoses after the age of 35 . Specifically, most of the diagnosed cases are between the ages of 35 and 80, with a peak between 45 and 65 .

The statistical data available to us indicate a slow increase in incidence rates and in the number of cases, although this is due to greater control, early diagnosis and the gradual aging of the population. It is estimated that the growth is around 1-2% , and the risk of suffering it from 1 in 8 women , with important differences between continents and countries.

Although breast cancer cannot be prevented, it is possible to avoid its mortality. Studies with strict methodologies show a percentage reduction in mortality of around 25-31% among less sensitized women and up to 38-48% among women who have undergone examinations. These data, however, have their limitations and are difficult to isolate, although they do provide some certainty of the convenience of the tests and the consequent early diagnoses.

In short, avoiding the effects of breast cancer is today more possible than ever, thanks to powerful tests such as mammograms , which together with the necessary self-examinations and medical check-ups will prevent, in many cases, its devastating effects. The great control and monitoring that is currently being carried out produces an increase in the statistical data of incidence rates. However, the mortality reduction data are optimistic and scientific advance continues on its way.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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