Breast cancer is a potentially life-threatening disease that affects millions of women around the world. As women, we need to be aware about the symptoms and treatments to be undertaken when confronted with breast cancer. Early detection does play a crucial part in the success of treatment and surgery in breast cancer .
While there are many ways to detect breast cancer there are often two commonly used imaging techniques for screening which are ultrasound and mammography. While both methods serve the same purpose, they have their own advantages and disadvantages. In this blog, we take you through the various benefits and limitations of each to explore the best among the two.
Understanding Breast Ultrasound
Breast ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create high resolution images of the breast tissue and also detect any breast lesion. The procedure is non-invasive and does not involve any radiation and is used for evaluating and detecting breast abnormalities during a physical exam or a mammogram. It can provide the doctor additional information regarding a specific area of concern, lump, cysts, or lesions like an abscess, accumulation of milk due to blocks in breastfeeding mothers etc.
Advantages of Breast Ultrasound:
- Safe and radiation-free: Unlike X-Ray mammography, ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation hence they are safe for repeated screenings in younger women as well as pregnant women.
- Distinguishing between solid and fluid-filled masses: Ultrasound can differentiate between solid masses (which may or may not be cancerous) and fluid-filled cysts (which are usually benign), reducing the need for unnecessary biopsies.
- Imaging dense breasts: Women with dense breast tissue often find mammograms to be less effective. An ultrasound can provide clearer images and improve detection in women with denser breasts.
Disadvantages of Breast Ultrasound:
- Limited screening ability: Ultrasound is not as effective as mammography in detecting small breast tissues, which can be an early sign of breast cancer, like micro calcifications.
- Operator dependence: The quality of the ultrasound images heavily rely on the skill and experience of the operator. Inexperienced doctors can sometimes miss subtle abnormalities or misinterpret the findings.
X-Ray Mammography is an X-ray imaging technique specifically designed for examining thebreasts. It involves compressing the breast between two plates and taking images from different angles. X-Ray Mammograms can detect even the smallest abnormalities, including micro calcifications, that may indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Advantages of X-Ray Mammography:
- Effective for early cancer detection: It is highly sensitive in detecting early-stage breast cancer, including micro calcifications that may not be visible on a breast ultrasound.
- Established screening method: This has been widely used for breast cancer screening for many years and has a wealth of evidence supporting its effectiveness.
- Wide availability: Mammography machines are commonly available in medical facilities, making it an accessible screening option.
Disadvantages of Mammography:
- Radiation exposure: Mammograms use low-dose ionizing radiation, which may slightly increase the risk of developing cancer. However, the benefits of early detection usually outweigh this minimal risk.
- Limited effectiveness for dense breasts: Dense breast tissue can appear white on mammograms, making it challenging to detect abnormalities. This can lead to false-negative results or additional testing and in these cases a breast ultrasound is found most effective.
- Discomfort during the procedure: The compression of the breasts during mammography can be uncomfortable or even painful for some women, which may discourage them for regular screenings.
- May cause pain in certain cases: When breast abscess (infection) is doubted, compression causes severe pain and should be avoided.
Which Method is the best?
The choice between breast ultrasound and mammography depends on various factors, including age, health, breast density, and individual risk factors. In many cases, the two methods are used together as complementary tools to maximize the accuracy of breast cancer detection. X-Ray Mammography is generally recommended as the initial screening tool for most women, as it detects even the smallest abnormality during the early stages. And a breast ultrasound can provide further evaluation for doctors regarding the issue and is often useful for younger women in their 20s. Your age, weight , health are all factors to be considered while choosing the right imaging for breasts. Your doctor will be the best person to provide you with the right choice after considering the following factors.
Nowadays MRI Mammography is also available n selected centres which is free of radiation like X-Ray. Cost, however, may be a concern.
Ambady Scan Centre offers both breast ultrasound to ensure the health of women. With more than 25 years of experience and the latest technology, Ambady Scan Centre offers the most reliable and accurate results that guarantees appropriate health and accurate results.