Submitted by Janet Hawkins, Medical Imaging Consultant,
Ft. Jesse Imaging Center and Gale Keeran Center for Women
It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in their lives. In 2014, according to the American Cancer Society, 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed; 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ will be diagnosed (non-invasive); and 40,000 women will die from breast cancer. We know that women’s chances for successful treatment are greatly improved by detecting breast cancer in its earliest stages. The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology recommend that the most effective way to detect breast cancer early is by having a baseline mammogram at age 40 and annual mammograms each year thereafter. Women at higher risk such as a personal history of breast cancer, strong family history of breast cancer, or inherited changes in genes should begin screening mammograms sooner.
Some studies suggest that mammograms can reduce death from breast cancer by as much as 50 percent. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2013, the percentage of women in the U.S. 40 years of age and older who report having had a mammogram within the past two years has stabilized at around 67 percent, yet only 51 percent of the women age 40 and older right here in McLean County had a mammogram in 2013. And that percentage is even lower in minority populations. Even though pink ribbons are everywhere and most women are knowledgeable about the lifesaving benefits of mammograms, why is it that almost one-half of the women in our community who should be getting regular mammograms, aren’t? While there haven’t been any scientific studies to answer that question, following are some of the reasons most often cited by women.
- It’s painful. Most women find mammograms to be merely uncomfortable, but for some women, they can be somewhat painful. However, each breast is only compressed for a few seconds and the procedure only takes about 15 minutes to complete.
- I’m too busy. Most women lead very busy lives — we take care of everyone else, but neglect our own health. Enlist your partner, friend, or someone else that cares about you to encourage you to have your annual mammogram.
- I feel fine, I have no risk factors, it’s not necessary. Screening mammograms are used to detect breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. Screening mammograms involve two images of each breast that make it possible to detect masses that cannot be felt. The study can also find microcalcifications (deposits of calcium) that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer. Many women diagnosed with breast cancer have absolutely no symptoms or risk factors.
- I worry about the exposure to radiation. Mammograms require very small doses of radiation and the risk of harm from this radiation exposure is low. The benefits of having a mammogram nearly always outweigh the risk.
- I can’t afford it and my insurance doesn’t cover it. Most insurance companies cover a screening mammogram under preventative care. However, there are local services available that provide low cost or free mammograms to women who qualify.
- I’m confused over screening guidelines. Researchers are concerned that women may be confused by the debate about the effectiveness of screening mammograms.
So, gals — no more excuses! Mammograms do save lives and are currently the best technology to detect breast abnormalities. Please don’t forget to schedule your annual breast examination with your physician and then remember to schedule your annual mammogram.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Gale Keeran Center for Women offers the latest 3D tomosynthesis technology. A recent 3D mammography study has shown a 5 percent increase in cancer findings and a decrease in call back rates. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call their office. In addition to regular business hours, they offer early morning and Saturday appointments.
Please call the Gale Keeran Center for Women at 309-452-9001 to schedule your annual mammogram.
Photo credit: CEFutcher/iStock