What Are The Basic Limitations of Mammography?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer occurring in women and is considered to be the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Several imaging techniques are used to screen women for small curable breast cancers; Mammography being one of them.

Mammography is a specific type of imaging technique in which low-dose x-ray beams are used to examine the human breast. These images depend on differences in x-ray stopping power to separate benign and malignant tissues.

Although mammography is considered to be the best screening tool for breast cancer however, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. It is difficult to interpret from the images because some breast cancers are hard to visualize. Not all cancers can be seen on mammography. Mammography cannot separate normal gland tissue from tumors. So this imaging technique is more effective when gland tissue diminishes with age.

Women with breast implants might not be benefitted by this imaging technique. This is because both silicone and saline implants can block a clear view of the tissues behind them.

Mammograms often miss up to 20 percent of the breast cancers that are present at the time of screening. This is more common among young women who have dense breasts. This makes breast cancers more difficult to detect in mammograms.

False positives occur when radiologists find some abnormality in the images. This is common in younger women, who have had previous breast biopsies, or had a family history of breast cancer.

Radiologists suggest additional tests to determine if cancer is present.

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