During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, our Director of Breast Imaging, Elizabeth Rafferty, MD, will be answering frequently asked questions about breast imaging and breast-cancer detection.
Ask our expert
Elizabeth Rafferty, MD
Director of Breast Imaging
October is Breast-Cancer Awareness Month, and we've got our expert, Breast Imaging Director Elizabeth Rafferty, MD, answering some frequently asked questions. At the end of each week, we will post a question with Dr. Rafferty’s response. Please be advised that these answers do not constitute medical advice; you should always discuss any change in your breast health with your doctor.
Schedule a screening mammogram at one of our convenient locations. Each woman who has a mammogram during October will receive a small thank you gift.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(New) When should you have a baseline mammogram?
A baseline mammogram is your very first mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35-40 and then a screening mammogram every year from the age of 40 years on. Changes in the breasts are very subtle, so a baseline mammogram is taken to compare to future mammograms and assess any potential changes in the breast. Women who are at a higher risk of breast cancer should discuss this with their health practitioner as they may benefit from earlier mammograms or a different screening regimen.
How do I know if I have dense breasts and what should I do?
Dense breasts contain more connective and glandular tissue that appears more solid white, compared to breasts that have more fatty tissue which appears darker on a mammogram. Only a yearly mammogram or breast tomosythesis will reveal if you have dense breasts, as age is not a predictor. Breast tomosynthesis minimizes overlapping breast tissue that happens with a 2D mammogram and is good for all breast types, including dense breasts.
Why do women get called back after a mammogram?
Dr. Rafferty: A patient is called back for additional mammographic images because the radiologist sees something potentially abnormal and would like additional views.
Why can't I just have an ultrasound instead of having a mammogram?
Dr. Rafferty: Ultrasounds produce too many false positives if used for screening. We use ultrasound to address specific situations in a diagnostic evaluation.
With 3D mammography (breast tomosynthesis), how many pictures do you take?
We take 15 images of the breast during the time of your study, and they are digitally reconstructed into 3D images.
Is 3D mammography better than conventional mammography for evaluating calcifications?
Breast tomosynthesis imaging is reviewed in conjunction with the conventional mammogram to evaluate calcifications.
Does a 3D mammogram feel different from a regular mammogram?
The experience for the patient is virtually identical. It takes just a few extra seconds to capture the additional images.
Should I be concerned about radiation with 3D mammography?
The radiation dose for the 3D mammography exam we are performing is under the FDA regulated limit for mammography. The FDA thoroughly considered the radiation issue before approving tomosynthesis for use in screening and diagnostic exams.
What does the future hold for 3D mammography?
Our hope for tomosynthesis in the future is that we find cancers earlier and further reduce mortality from breast cancer. Time will tell.
Does age matter when it comes to who should have 3D mammography?
In clinical trials, all women benefited from 3D mammography. But the benefit was greatest in women with dense breast tissue. This is because dense breast tissue can mask cancers and/or lead to false positives. Dense breast tissue tends to be more common in younger women because as we age, the tissue tends to become more fatty.
NEWS & EVENTS
Educational handouts are available at our education tables, and staff will be available to assist you.
- This month, we are proud to announce the launch of 3D mammography at Mass General Imaging - Chelmsford.
- Schedule a screening mammogram at one of our convenient locations. Each woman who gets a mammogram during October will receive a small thank you gift.
- Visit us at Nurses Appreciation Night at the Worcester DCU on 10/11, if you are attending the event.
- Book a mammogram appointment or receive additional information at our Breast Cancer Awareness educational tables:
- 10/2 Mass General Main Campus, near Coffee Central (10 am to 2 pm)
- 10/16 Mass General Main Campus, near Coffee Central (10 am to 2 pm)
- 10/11 MGH Revere Healthcare Center (10am to 2 pm)
- 10/14 Making Strides against Breast Cancer, Boston at the Magic 106.7 booth
- 10/16 and 10/17: Mass General North Shore Center for Outpatient Care (10 am to 2 pm)
- 10/21 Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk, Worcester
- 10/22 Mass General, near Coffee Central (10 am to 2 pm)
- 10/23 Mass General West Imaging - Waltham, Cafeteria
- 10/30 Mass General Main Campus near Coffee Central (10 am to 2 pm)
- Look for the Red velvet cupcakes “in the pink” at the Eat Street café recognizing breast cancer awareness month