MEDFORD, Ore. -- Getting a mammogram can identify cancer very early and each person depends on the images being read accurately.
Once a mammogram is done, a highly trained professional uses the highest technology to identify whether there is anything worth taking a closer look at.
"So as you can see on the mammogram, everything's either dark or white. The dark, those are the areas that are the normal fat of the breast,” says radiologist Dr. Mack Bandler. "The other thing that we look for are calcifications, which are really bright little dots."
Radiologists like Bandler rely on training, experience and technology to identify anything that is abnormal on an image.
“There's a button we press… which is the computer aided detection and it marks things that it wants us to take an extra look at and so I will toggle that on and off as I go through,” says Bandler.
"I think the biggest thing is not to be overly concerned. You know, even patients who come in and we do call them back for something abnormal, the majority of those are just, what I call normal variances in breast tissue, a lot of fibrocystic changes… we will investigate either with additional pictures or ultrasound,” says Nicole McPheeters, a nurse at Eisenstein Breast Center.
Many mammograms show calcifications that look like bright white grains of sand. Most of the time they are benign.
“But sometimes they're in a cancer and it's the earliest sign of a cancer and we have to look at the pattern,” says Bandler.
The FDA estimates that 16 percent of breast cancer won't show up on a mammogram.
“We want people to get screened and sometimes there are other situations where not all breast cancers show up on mammography. There is a truth to that. Those patients with really dense breasts and not all forms are visible with changes on mammographys... so, sometimes those are diagnosed a little bit later. But still the advancements that we have in, you know, I think, treatments, some of the different chemotherapy medications, even some of the hormonal blockers and what not. You know, we're giving patients really that best opportunity for a fight for a really long healthy life," says McPheeters.
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