Breast cancer is a very important topic in women’s health. It is one of the leading causes of death in women, and thousands of cases are discovered each year. While that is concerning news, the detection and care of such cancer has accelerated in development greatly over the years. Some examples of this are two of the most preeminent methods used to screen for malignancies, breast ultrasound and mammograms. Both of these techniques utilize different ways of finding and identifying tumors, and this often leads to a common question: which is superior? To determine an answer, let’s look at both methods and how they work.
First, consider the mammogram. This medical procedure uses X-rays to generate images of a woman’s mammary areas while pressed between two plates. In most cases, several images may be generated from different angles to offer a more complete view. Both breasts are imaged so that they can be checked and compared to one another and help identify any discrepancies. Mammograms are not only capable of detecting cancer, however. They can also pick up other abnormalities such as calcification, cysts, and fibroadenomas.
While mammograms are very useful, they do have their share of drawbacks. Since they rely on X-rays, they are not used on pregnant women, as the X-rays could be unhealthy for the unborn child. Some women find mammograms uncomfortable due to the positioning required to capture images of their breasts. One prevalent concern with mammograms is that they are not always accurate. They may notice something that seems to be abnormal, but may actually not be cancer or anything serious to take note of.
Next, we take a look at breast ultrasound, also known as sonography or elastography. This process utilizes waves of sound to deliver an image of a body part and is usually done by using a device called a transducer to transmit and receive high-frequency sound waves through the mammary area. Similar to echolocation, this produces a mapping from within the body, which is then used to examine and observe the area. It gives a clear view of soft tissue that may not be visible in an X-ray, and is very effective when viewing dense mammary tissue. Elastography is noninvasive and virtually painless.
Elastography is becoming a popular option for many women, but it is not a perfect means to detect tumors. There are some forms of cancer that it cannot detect. Another factor to consider is that it cannot offer a picture of the entire range, only able to focus on a certain area at a time.
So to return to the question posed at the outset, neither technique is truly superior to the other. As mentioned above, a mammogram can cover a much wider area of observation as it offers a much wider, open picture. And even though breast ultrasound covers a much smaller area, it is especially useful for taking a closer look at a smaller area and double-checking an anomaly that other methods were not able to fully identify. Both methods play a vital role in breast health for women.