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What is the mammography screening program

In order to detect breast cancer, doctors use various examination methods - in addition to the woman's age, it must also be taken into account whether it is purely an early detection examination of a healthy woman or whether a woman with complaints turns to a doctor.

Quality-assured mammography screenings every two years are suitable for the early detection of breast cancer in women between 50 and 69 years of age. Mammography is currently the only method generally recognized to be effective for the detection of breast cancer precursors or early tumor stages.

Mammography: In mammography, the female breast is X-rayed. X-rays are electromagnetic waves that are attenuated differently as they penetrate tissue. This means that the fatty tissue is dark in a mammography. Tumors, on the other hand, are white and can therefore be easily recognized. Mammography is not only used for screening symptom-free women, but also to clarify suspicious findings.

Ultrasonic: During the ultrasound examination, sound waves are sent into the tissue with a transducer. Depending on the type of fabric, a certain amount of sound is reflected by the fabric. The different gray values ​​create an image on which the different structures of the breast can be recognized. Adipose tissue is relatively dark, while normal glandular and connective tissue is almost white. The ultrasound can therefore do without X-rays, but has limits. The typical calcifications in precancerous stages and very small tumors can hardly be recognized with this examination method. For this reason, ultrasound is not suitable as the sole measure for early breast cancer detection - it is, however, used in clarification in addition to mammography.

Magnetic resonance imaging: In magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the body is exposed to an artificially generated magnetic field. The different content of hydrogen atoms of the individual tissue types creates the contrast through which the organ structure becomes visible. MRI is a very sensitive method that can be used to find small tumors. The only problem is that false alarms are often triggered, as benign changes can also absorb contrast media and thus light up in the images. Another limitation is that breast cancer precursors cannot be reliably detected using MRI.

Self-scanning: “Nodes” found by self-scanning are often benign. If, on the other hand, the palpable tumor is malignant, it has often "spread". Studies have shown that self-scanning does not prevent breast cancer deaths and unnecessarily leads to more suspicious findings. Self-scanning is therefore not to be classified as an early detection measure.

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Frequently asked questions about mammography screening