How Are Mammograms Done on Small Breasts?
Mammograms bring up a lot of questions and conflicting opinions, which range from mammograms being more painful for smaller breasts to the idea that small breasts don’t need regular mammograms. The fact is that mammograms test the breast tissue for abnormalities, and every woman can benefit from these regular screenings.
Since mammograms are the best way to detect the early stages of cancer, regardless of the size of your breasts, a mammogram should be part of your medical routine. Getting a mammogram with small breasts is not much different than any other breast size, but people still have questions about mammograms for flat chests.
Common Questions About Mammograms for Flat Chests
Considering how vital routine mammograms are, it’s crucial to have complete and accurate information before making any decisions. Unfortunately, too many people rely on hearsay or word of mouth to get their facts.
Here are five common questions and answers about getting a mammogram with small breasts.
1. Do Women With Small Breasts Need Regular Mammograms?
The short answer is: Yes, they do. Breast cancer does not discriminate based on breast size, so regardless of whether you’re flat-chested or have large breasts, you need annual mammograms starting at age 40.
2. Are Small Breasts Less Likely to Get Cancer?
Your risk of developing breast cancer has nothing to do with your cup size. Breast size is dependent on fatty or fibrous tissue — bigger breasts mean more of this tissue, and smaller breasts mean less of it. The cells lining the breasts’ lobules — a small gland that makes milk — are where cancer develops. Regardless of breast size, the number of cells lining the lobules is the same for every woman, so the risks of developing breast cancer are pretty much the same for all breast sizes.
It’s the density that matters most, since the more connective and milk duct tissue there is, the higher the risk of developing cancer. The size of your breasts has no impact on the density or vice versa.
3. Can Your Breasts Be Too Small for a Mammogram?
There must be enough breast tissue to get an accurate image from a mammogram. Some women with small breasts worry they lack sufficient tissue, but the truth is that everyone has enough breast tissue for a mammogram. An experienced technologist should be able to image breasts of any size.
It’s not possible to image specific areas of the breast due to its positioning during a mammogram, but these areas are not relevant to the size and are generally the same for everyone.
4. Are Mammograms More Painful for Women With Small Breasts?
Concerns about discomfort during a mammogram are common, but since pain is subjective, there’s not a simple yes or no answer to this. Some women may only feel slight pressure, while others may experience pain during the exam.
The level of discomfort has more to do with an individual’s tolerance than the size of their breasts. Often, women report the part of the mammogram that requires compressing the breast to get the x-ray is the most uncomfortable. The compression is necessary for the technologist to obtain a more accurate image. The more the technologist compresses the breast, the thinner the tissue will be for imaging. And the thinner the tissue is, the less radiation needed to obtain the image.
Thinner tissue also allows for a clearer image, which enables health professionals to spot any abnormalities or growths more easily.
5. Is Cancer Harder to Detect in Small Breasts?
There is generally no difference in catching the early stages of cancer in small or large breasts, so mammograms are 80 to 90% accurate no matter what size the breasts are. Again, the density of the breast tissue can make it challenging to spot abnormalities. However, this varies from person to person and is unrelated to the size of the breasts.
In a mammogram, breast fat shows up black and abnormalities show up as white, which makes any irregularities easier to spot in breasts that have a lot of fat. Dense breast tissue also shows up white in mammograms, which makes finding anomalies much trickier.
Generally, bigger breasts have a lot more fat, which inevitably makes it a bit easier to spot abnormalities in a mammogram. But mammograms, along with regular self-exams, are still the best ways to detect early stages of cancer.
How Do They Do Mammograms on Small Breasts?
The procedure for mammograms is the same regardless of the size of the breasts, so the answer to the question “How do they do a mammogram on small breasts?” is, “The same way they do a mammogram on large breasts.”
First, you’ll need to take off your shirt and bra and put on a robe to cover yourself. Be sure to avoid wearing any perfume, deodorant, lotion or oils on the day of your mammogram. You will be alone in the examination room with a trained technologist who will do your mammogram.
The technologist is a trained professional who will place your breasts — one at a time — between two plastic imaging plates. These plates will compress your breasts to get accurate images. Breast compression is often the most uncomfortable part of the mammogram, but it does not last for very long.
A good tip is to try to relax instead of tensing up. When you tense — as many people naturally do during this process — your muscles tighten and try to resist the machine, which can be more painful. Relaxing your muscles helps the body tolerate the discomfort better.
The technologist will take multiple images while adjusting your breasts in different positions to enable clearer images. Overall, the exam will last approximately 10 minutes.
Remember that getting called back for further testing is relatively normal. Finding irregularities in the mammogram is also not uncommon, and more often than not, it’s dense tissue or just a cyst. The callback is more a matter of being safe than sorry.
Schedule Your Next Mammogram With Health Images
If you’ve been putting off scheduling your mammogram, now’s the time to change that. The professionals at Health Imaging have the goal of providing comprehensive care and are available to answer any questions you have about your mammogram. Our staff and state-of-the-art technology are revolutionizing digital imaging, and we have multiple locations to serve you.
Find your nearest location and book your next mammogram with Health Images today.