Revisiting Mammograms and Breast Biopsies

Mammogram and Breast Biopsy - what’s what and when needed?

A mammogram is a radiologic (x-ray) view of the breast. There are two main types:

1) Screening: when you don't have a reason for suspicion of disease. It allows early detection.

2) Diagnostic: when you have felt a lump or felt other symptoms such as pain, thickening of the skin, nipple discharge or change in breast size. Remember, just having these symptoms doesn't mean you have cancer. These could be benign.

A breast biopsy is done when other tests might point to presence of cancer. Again, needing a breast biopsy doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer (actually, a lot of biopsy results come back showing benign condition). During a biopsy, a doctor will remove cells from the suspicious area so they can be looked at in the lab to see if cancer cells are present. There are different kinds of breast biopsies. Some use a needle and some use an incision (cut in the skin).

Discuss with your physician what is the right time for you to get a screening mammogram. And remember, don't hide or be shy in sharing with your physician any symptom(s) you may find during a self exam.

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