Your Family Needs You and 3 Other Reasons to Get Your Mammogram
Did you know that mammography has reduced breast cancer mortality in the United States by one-third in the last 25 years? Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer. They can save lives by helping doctors discover breast cancer much earlier than other methods.
Early detection means that more women who are treated for breast cancer have a higher survivability rate and increase the chances that breast removal will not be necessary. Localized cancers can be removed without women having to undergo breast removal, or mastectomy. Need more convincing? Here are three things to know about mammograms:
- Mammograms can save your life. Early detection of breast cancer can reduce the risk of dying by more than 30 percent. Women should start having regular mammograms when they turn 40 years old and earlier if they have a family history of the disease. Mammograms can find lumps two to three years before a woman or her provider can manually feel them.
- There is nothing to fear from a mammogram. This is a fast and safe procedure. The whole process lasts about 20 minutes with minimal discomfort. There is exposure to a small amount of radiation during the process, but these levels fall well within the safe limits of the body’s tolerability.
- Breast cancer increases with age. The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman over the age of 50. Other risks include:
- The density of your breast.
- Your family history.
- Being post-menopausal.
- Never having had a child or your first was born after the age of 30.
- Never having breastfed.
One complaint from women about mammograms and the reason they may avoid them is breast compression. Although it is uncomfortable, here are why breasts are compressed during the screening:
- Radiation from the machine can be reduced by decreasing the breast’s thickness.
- It prevents movement that reduces blurriness and the chance for false positives.
- It separates the breast tissue and may expose hiding lesions.
- It provides uniformity to the breast’s thickness.
- It increases detail by allowing the imaging device to get as close as possible to the breast.
Every woman needs a mammogram screening. Breast cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in North Carolina. Each year more than 8,500 women are diagnosed and over one in eight die from the disease. Many of these cases may be diagnosed earlier with regular mammography screenings.
Unfortunately, many women cannot afford a regular screening so their risk factors for breast cancer increases. If you cannot afford a mammography, it is crucial to seek out assistance from organizations such as the Cone Health Mammography Scholarship Fund, which provides screening mammograms to hundreds of women each year who otherwise would not be able to afford them. This scholarship is made possible through the Women’s Only 5K Walk & Run, a fundraiser held each year on the first Saturday in October.
About the Author
Martin A. Defrancesco, MD specializes in Obstetrics/Gynecology at Encompass Women's Care