The Importance of Mammograms

As many of you know, October starts Breast Cancer awareness month.  It is during this month that many healthcare organizations bring a spot light to breast cancer and even breast cancer prevention.  It’s a great opportunity to schedule your yearly mammogram, which is a crucial step in catching breast cancer early.  In fact, getting yearly mammograms has helped to lower the breast cancer mortality rate by almost 40%!

What is a mammogram?

For those who are unsure, a mammogram is a certain type of breast exam which uses noninvasive x-rays targeted at each breast individually.  It produces photos which can identify abnormal areas in the breast, and even possibly indicate cancer presence through further testing.

Why should I get a mammogram?

It should be mentioned that mammograms cannot prevent cancer, but they have been known to save lives by early detection of breast cancer.  Early detection of breast cancer allows for more treatment options, including (for some women) treatment without mastectomy.  Early detection reduces a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer by 25-30% or more!

Recent studies have also shown that 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history and are not considered “high risk”.  A mammogram increases your chances of early detection of that cancer.  A mammogram can sometimes show changes in the breast up to 2 years before a physician or patient notices the changes themselves!  Even if you have no family of breast cancer, getting a yearly mammogram is the right decision.

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When Should I Start Getting Mammograms?

The current guidelines laid out by the American College of Radiology and the Society for Breast Imaging recommend is that women age 40 and older receive annual mammograms.  This is true, even if an individual has no family history or symptoms of breast cancer.  These are the recommendations because 1 in 6 breast cancers occurs in women who are between the ages of 40 and 49.  It is important to continue the annual mammogram because even for women over 50, skipping a mammogram every other year, would miss up to 30% of breast cancer diagnoses.

It is important to remember that mammograms are not perfect.  Although they do help diagnosis breast cancer earlier, there is still a need for self-breast exams and exams by your health care professional.

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So this October, get out and schedule your mammogram to screen for early detection of breast cancer!  Contact your local radiology center for more details!