Medical imaging modalities for women are very important screening and diagnostic tools. They can detect diseases, including breast and ovarian cancers, early on. The earlier a disease is detected; the sooner treatments can be started. So routine women’s imaging is an important part of health care. But what exactly is women’s imaging?
Health writer and guest blogger Alisson has graciously written the following article to help you understand the importance and differences in medical imaging for women.
What Is Women’s Imaging?
Women’s health is very important but is often the most overlooked. Women tend to delay timely diagnostic tests, as they have such busy lives nowadays. However, certain tests at a diagnostic center for women help detect early signs of health conditions that otherwise may go unnoticed.
Women’s imaging is an important subdivision of radiology. It helps diagnose possible health concerns in women effectively and in a timely manner. Women’s health is different from men’s, and imaging for women can aid in diagnosing certain conditions, such as gynecological cancer, early. Women’s imaging tests are also helpful in pregnancy as they are safer and can help detect abnormalities in time. An early diagnosis is essential for an effective treatment plan.
In this article, as you read further, we will discuss what women’s imaging is, its benefits, and the types of imaging tests available that help detect different health conditions.
What is Medical Imaging for Women?
Women are more prone to certain health conditions than men. Women’s imaging pertains to diagnostic imaging tests that help identify health complications such as breast cancer or gynecological diseases. Imaging for women is important to promptly diagnose a disease and begin effective treatments.
Imaging for women can help women take control of their health and prioritize their treatments after consulting their physician. It can help them get the medical help they need, make necessary life changes, and lead to a healthier life. Early diagnosis of health conditions such as cancer can increase the chances of survival and improve quality of life.
What are the Benefits of Women’s Imaging Tests?
There are several benefits of imaging tests for women. It allows women to lead healthier lives, prioritize their health, diagnose certain conditions promptly to develop an effective treatment plan.
These benefits include the following:
- Diagnostic imaging tests can provide fast results.
- Imaging tests such as mammograms help detect symptoms of cancer early on to begin timely treatment.
- Imaging tests can help monitor the after-effects of treatments, which is especially helpful in recovering patients.
- Imaging tests can provide an early alert of recurrence of diseases, such as breast cancer.
- In women who have dense breast tissue, imaging tests can help detect cancers which might otherwise go unnoticed.
- Imaging tests may improve a person’s survival chances and quality of life.
- Women’s Imaging tests can help the patient and doctors decide on a treatment plan moving forward.
- Imaging tests for women help track the progress and effectiveness of ongoing treatment.
- Screening and diagnostic tests help give women the knowledge they need to make decisions to take charge of their health care.
Women should discuss their health-related concerns and imaging tests with their doctor at the earliest available time.
What are the Different Types of Imaging Tests for Women?
It is recommended that women should consult their physician and get their imaging tests on a regular basis. For some, this means tests are done at least once a year. Even if there are no visible symptoms, these tests can help diagnose certain life-threatening conditions, which otherwise may go unnoticed.
There are several kinds of women’s imaging tests. However, the most common ones are discussed below:
Mammograms are the most common women’s imaging tests that help detect breast cancer. It works by taking an x-ray of the breasts and allows doctors to detect early signs of breast cancer. Often, on breast exams, lumps can go unnoticed when they are small. However, these smaller masses may be detected in mammograms.
Mammograms are effective in detecting breast cancer as early as three years before it shows any symptoms. The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner treatments can be started.
One of the most reliable women’s radiology tests to detect early signs of cancer is a digital mammogram, which produces the best quality results. The two types of digital mammograms include screening and diagnostic mammography.
Screening Mammography: A screening mammography test is conducted annually to diagnose unsuspected breast cancer. This is helpful, especially where there are no signs or symptoms of the disease.
Diagnostic Mammography: A diagnostic mammography test is conducted if an early screening indicates signs or symptoms of breast cancer. If a patient reports abnormal symptoms such as a skin dimpling, lump or nipple discharge, this type of screening is recommended.
For women with dense breast tissue, contrast-enhanced digital mammography (CEDM) is more sensitive. This type of imaging uses a dye to find new blood vessels that develop when cancer grows.
Ultrasound tests are safe during pregnancy, as they don’t use radiation. Ultrasounds use sound waves to produce real-time images that can help detect the structure of internal organs. An ultrasound delivers accurate results that can help diagnose various other health conditions apart from pregnancy issues.
For instance, any abnormalities in breast tissue can be diagnosed through a breast ultrasound. Ultrasounds can also help distinguish whether a breast lump is a cancerous tumor or a benign cyst. An ultrasound can also help find the right area to target for a biopsy.
3. Bone Density Scan
A bone density scan can help detect osteoporosis, which usually affects women. A bone density scan measures bone density to identify the strength in the bones. It uses x-rays to measure the mineral amount per square centimeter.
A bone density scan helps reveal the chances of fracture in women. Women with low minerals and a lower bone density have a higher risk for bone fracture.
For women, it is important to have this scan regularly, especially after menopause when estrogen levels decline. This hormone is responsible for protecting the bones. Many women develop osteoporosis after menopause or if they are on breast cancer hormonal treatments.
Bone density scans reveal the fragility of bones in women who may need medication to protect and strengthen their bones.
4. Breast MRI
In some cases, doctors may require more information than a clinical breast exam, mammogram, or ultrasound. In this case, they may ask for a breast MRI. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
Breast MRI is a useful, yet underutilized, screening tool to detect breast cancer in cases where women have a high risk of developing the disease. It is not a replacement women’s radiology test for a mammogram or an ultrasound but rather an additional tool to detect abnormalities in the breast.
5. Breast Biopsy
A breast biopsy is conducted by removing a sample of breast tissue and sending it to the lab for testing. It helps reveal whether a lump, mass, or any other abnormality that may be detected is benign or cancerous.
Core biopsy samples are usually taken with a needle which is guided by ultrasound images. Without a biopsy, other imaging techniques can only be suspicious of cancer, not diagnostic.
6. DEXA Scans
DEXA stands for Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. It uses low level x-rays to scan a person’s body in only a few minutes.
A DEXA scan is a full-body medical scan that reveals lean mass, fat mass, and bone density. It can help a doctor assess a patient’s health status and risk of bone fracture. It can help a woman choose an optimal treatment plan.
A DEXA Scan can be useful for athletes to decide on a training program that best suits their needs.
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How Often Should Women Get Imaging Tests?
It is important to discuss routine imaging tests with your doctor. Together, based on your health, risk factors, and general recommendations, you and your doctor can develop an appropriate health testing plan.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is recommended that women who have an average risk of breast cancer should have the choice of annual mammograms starting at the age of 40. After 45, it may be appropriate to conduct this test once every one to two years. Women of any age should discuss breast cancer screening with their doctor.
How often you have your bone density screened depends on your risk factors. If you are over the age of 65 or your risk is high, you may need to get tested every 1 to 5 years. Your doctor can advise you on how often you should be tested.
Caring for Your Health is Caring for Your Family
It is important to care for your health. For women, it is very important to be vigilant. Women are often the primary caretakers in their homes. Women can’t care well for others or be effective in their careers if their own health is deteriorating. Conditions such as cancer are serious and can be life-threatening, especially if not detected early.
Early diagnosis of such conditions allows for appropriate and prompt treatment, which can increase the chances of survival. In this case, women’s imaging tests are helpful in early diagnosis and provide valuable results so that doctors can initiate treatment. Some tests, such as digital mammograms and ultrasounds, can produce rapid results.
post photo credit: depositphotos.com