Diagnostic Mammography During the COVID-19 Pandemic
While screening mammography appointments have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, diagnostic mammography exams continue to be provided. These types of mammography exams are used to investigate the cause for symptoms in breast tissue, such as lumps, pain, redness, or nipple discharge.
We are following the guidance of the Canadian Association of Radiologists and Alberta Society of Radiologists and are temporarily postponing screening mammography exams until mid-May. These exams help look for potential health concerns, and have been delayed to help blunt the spread of COVID-19.
However, it’s still important to speak with your doctor about any concerning symptoms or changes within your breast tissue. Diagnostic mammography aimed at identifying the cause for these health concerns will continue to be performed. A breast ultrasound may also be requested by your doctor to look at your breast tissue.
When used together a mammogram and breast ultrasound can help provide a comprehensive look at breast tissue.
A breast biopsy can be performed in cases where ultrasound or mammography cannot differentiate benign from malignant lesions. This involves the insertion of a needle into the lesion to take a small tissue sample, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Mayfair is currently providing breast biopsy appointments at our Mayfair Place location.
HOW DOES MAMMOGRAPHY WORK?
Mammography is a type of X-ray exam that takes images – called mammograms – for a detailed look at the internal structure of breast tissue to see changes that are too small for you or your doctor to feel. Having a screening mammogram every year, or every two years, makes it easier for a radiologist to compare your images and see changes or areas of concern. Diagnostic mammography is ordered when looking at a specific concern.
It’s important to investigate any concerns with breast tissue since finding breast cancer early means a better chance of surviving it. Breast cancer will affect one in eight women in Canada, but if you find it early, there is less chance of recurrence and an increased chance that it has not spread to the lymph nodes.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MAMMOGRAPHY AND BREAST ULTRASOUND?
Mammography is a type of X-ray, so it uses low dose radiation to look at the breast tissue.
A breast ultrasound can help determine the composition of a lump, distinguishing between a cyst, fibroglandular tissue, and a solid mass. It uses high-frequency sound waves that travel into the breast and are reflected back. The speed, direction, and distance sound waves travel differ depending on the boundary they run into, a computer can interpret this information as a two-dimensional image on a screen.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR DEVELOPING BREAST CANCER?
Factors that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer for both men and women include:
- A personal history of, or one or more first-degree relatives diagnosed with, breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer.
- Carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, or having a first-degree relative with these gene mutations.
- Having had chest radiation therapy before age 30 or within the past eight years.
- History of lobular carcinoma in situ or atypical hyperplasia on a previous breast biopsy.
Women with these risk factors are considered high risk and may be encouraged to start having screening mammograms early and more frequently. For men, it’s important to speak with your doctor about your medical history and risk factors in order to decide what’s right for you.