National Mammography Day is celebrated on February 5th in Brazil, and aims to make women aware of the importance of carrying out mammography exams for the prevention and early detection of breast cancer – which is the type of cancer most common among women in the world and in Brazil, second only to skin cancer in the incidence of cases in the country. According to INCA, in 2023, 73,610 new cases of breast cancer are estimated in the country, which represents an adjusted incidence rate of 41.89 cases per 100,000 women (INCA, 2022).
During this period, several awareness campaigns and prevention actions are promoted throughout the country, with lectures, distribution of informative material and mammography exams with low or free prices. Mammography is an imaging test that uses x-rays to identify changes in breast tissue. It is considered the gold standard imaging test for the early detection of breast cancer, as it allows the identification of micro lesions when they are still in an easier stage of treatment.
Regular mammograms are recommended for women aged 50 or over, but can be started earlier in cases of increased risk, which can be considered: family history of breast cancer or presence of genetic mutations related to cancer. There is no specific preparation for the mammography, it is only requested that patients do not use antiperspirants after the last bath before the exam, since these products usually have aluminum in their composition, appearing in the exam in a similar way to breast calcifications.
Although most women know the importance of mammography, many fail to perform the exam for fear of breast compression. Compression is uncomfortable for most women, especially in the premenstrual and menstrual period, so avoid scheduling your exam on these dates. Although uncomfortable, the compression only lasts a few seconds, and is essential for a quality, clear image with a lower dose of radiation. A mammogram with insufficient compression may not demonstrate existing lesions, invalidating the exam.
Another common issue is that women with breast prostheses are afraid to perform the exam. But this is not necessary, there is a specific protocol for these patients and compression is also reduced. A novelty is that there is a recent test on the market, which is breast tomosynthesis, performed in an adapted mammography unit with the aim of acquiring three-dimensional images of the breast. While the patient’s breast is compressed, the head of the equipment makes an arc around the breast, similar to a CT scan. In this way, it is possible to visualize several layers of breast tissue. Among the advantages of tomosynthesis, we can mention: better visualization of dense breasts (breasts with predominant glandular tissue), nodular lesions and regions with overlapping tissue. Although there is this novelty, it is important to emphasize that other tests such as tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound do not replace mammography and breast tomosynthesis. Regarding the values: digital mammography costs approximately 300 reais, and breast tomosynthesis 1,000 reais.
In summary, National Mammography Day is an opportunity to reinforce the importance of prevention and care for early detection of breast cancer, and to encourage women to have regular mammograms. In addition, it is important that women are always aware of any change in the breasts, such as lumps, redness, change in shape or skin retraction, and seek a doctor if they have any concerns. Therefore, preventing and discovering breast cancer as soon as possible significantly increases the chances of treatment and cure.
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Evelyn Rosa de Oliveira *Evelyn Rosa de Oliveira is a radiology technologist, with a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. Tutor of the Radiology Technology Course at UNINTER
Sent by: Valquiria Marchiori – NQM Comunicação