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Mammogram vs. Ultrasound?

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Have you had a mammogram? Have you ever had an ultrasound? Both are familiar terms when regarding women’s health. We often find ourselves thinking back to the last one, inwardly cringing when not being able to remember, or even perhaps for some of you, you have not had either.

I came across an article on Vogue’s online site, under their Health & Fitness section called, “The Important Breast Cancer Screen Weapon You May Not Know About”, by Elizabeth Varnell. It is a brief piece featuring doctors speaking out regarding the implications of mammography, and how ultrasound technology could potentially come into play when it comes to breast cancer screening and breast health.

The beginning of the article explains what mammograms can detect, and the cons to the procedure. Meaning, mammograms can catch lumps and any changes in breasts of older women, but the procedure becomes tricky with younger women. Younger women tend to have dense breast tissue, and breasts continue to change throughout a woman’s life. The article mentions that mammogram procedures, when screening a breast with dense tissue, it comes up white, which is the same color of what masses and tumors will show up as.

Therefore, doctors are speaking out about now using ultrasounds to screen for breast cancer. One of the doctor’s featured in the article, Dr. Barbara Hayden, who has credited ultrasound technology to finding a lump in her lymph node states, “Ultrasound is safe and has a long track record; it’s been around for a while. We use it on pregnant women and fetuses.” There are devices that she uses that can view the outer quadrants of the breast to the sternum.

Dr. Hayden also mentions an interesting point when discussing young breast tissue. The article states that imaging younger breast tissue can lead to more false positives, which creates a large amount of concern, rightfully so. This anxiety can lead to unnecessary surgery. Therefore, Dr. Hayden suggests that when using an ultrasound, you don’t have to panic right away. Due to the timing most tumors take to grow, you can schedule more ultrasounds in a reasonable amount of time and get screened without the radiation exposure having a mammogram can bring.

A UCLA Health surgeon, and past president of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, Dr. Deanna J. Attai, is also featured in the article. She mentions that pap tests work well because cervixes do not change over time, while breasts do. Therefore, wanting to ensure that mammograms do work, just not perfectly for every stage of life. The article states, “Attai maintains mammography is still useful to detect calcifications (which can signal early breast cancer), but ultrasound allows younger women to avoid accumulations of heavy metals like gadolinium, sometimes injected during MRIs to enhance pictures.”

Finally, both doctors mention that ultrasound screenings are not always covered by insurance, but with the more women wanting to live a more non-toxic lifestyle, they believe insurance companies will start to feel the need to cover it.

After discussing this article with a friend, she also mentioned how ultrasounds might be a better option due to accessibility, which is a great point. From a quick google search, I found that a

mammogram machine can cost approximately anywhere from $200,000-$500,000 and a 3D mammogram machine can cost around $430,000. Whereas an ultrasound machine can cost anywhere between $20,000-$75,000 with a laptop ranging from $5,000 to $40,000. Showing us that hospitals and clinics are more likely to have more than one ultrasound machine, while most likely only having one mammogram machine.

I believe the one thing this article made me do, was think! I started to think about my lifestyle, my choices in regards to breast health, and the further complications I can still face in the future. It really makes me think about the time I went in to get a mammogram and due to having my breast implants at the time, I was urging my doctor to make sure the procedure did not end with a rupture in one of my implants; leaving me to wish I had an alternative given to me at the time. Now that I have had an opportunity to do an ultrasound at Sonobreast with the Sonocine machine, I will be doing one every year as recommended. I would highly recommend that anyone with breast implants do the Sonocine as you will have less uncomfortable “smooshing” of the breast, a less likely chance of an implant disruption, and an added bonus of no radiation.

As also mentioned in the article, Dr. Hayden concludes by saying that everyone’s screening decision is a personal decision. I could not agree more! Although I do find it extremely vital for women to get all the information and options available for their health, it is in the end up to your health care provider and you to make a customized decision.

Written and read by Jennifer James @cleanbeautybabebyjenn

Topics mentioned in the Vogue article. Genetic Markers , When breast tissue is dense, Julia Louis-Dreyfus Reveals That She Has Breast Cancer, Speaks Out on Universal Health Care.

Sonocine machine at sonobreast in santa monica