Mammography is an important tool for detecting breast cancer in women, but what happens when a woman is pregnant? Many women may wonder whether it's safe to have a mammogram during pregnancy, as well as whether it's effective at detecting breast cancer. Here's what you need to know about mammography and pregnancy.
First and foremost, it's important to note that mammography uses ionizing radiation, which can be harmful to a developing fetus. Therefore, mammography is generally not recommended during pregnancy unless there is a clear medical need. However, if a woman discovers a breast lump or has other concerning breast symptoms during pregnancy, it's important to discuss the risks and benefits of mammography with her healthcare provider.
In some cases, a mammogram may be necessary to diagnose a breast problem or to monitor the progress of an existing breast condition. In these cases, special precautions may be taken to minimize the risks to the fetus. For example, a lead apron can be placed over the woman's abdomen to shield the fetus from the radiation, and the mammogram can be adjusted to use the lowest possible dose of radiation.
Ultrasound is another imaging test that can be used to evaluate breast lumps or abnormalities during pregnancy. Unlike mammography, ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation, so it's considered safe for pregnant women. However, it's not as effective at detecting small breast tumors as mammography, so it may not be the best choice for breast cancer screening.
It's important for pregnant women to be aware of the normal changes that occur in the breasts during pregnancy, such as increased size and tenderness, so they can distinguish between normal changes and potentially concerning symptoms. Breast self-exams can be performed during pregnancy, but it's important to use a lighter touch than usual due to the increased sensitivity of the breasts.
In conclusion, mammography is generally not recommended during pregnancy due to the potential risks to the fetus. However, if there is a clear medical need for a mammogram, special precautions can be taken to minimize the risks. Ultrasound is a safe alternative to mammography during pregnancy, but it may not be as effective at detecting breast cancer. Women should discuss their individual circumstances with their healthcare provider to determine the best course of action.