The Importance of Annual Mammograms

In the Unites States, breast cancer is most common cancer among women, excluding skin cancer, but deaths have been rapidly decreasing over the last decade mostly due to earlier detection through regular mammogram screenings. Bench SmallA mammogram is an x-ray imaging exam of the breast tissue which is used to detect or diagnose breast diseases such as breast cancer. This x-ray examination is key to early detection of breast cancer which can significantly decrease the likelihood of breast cancer deaths. Mammograms can detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, long before you or your doctor could detect any lumps or tumors through regular examination. The earlier breast cancer is found, the higher the rate of survival is and the shorter the treatment time will be. It is estimated that 1 in 8 women develop breast cancer within their lifetime which is why it is recommended that every woman have a mammogram after a certain age.

There are two separate types of mammograms that serve different purposes through the x-ray imaging process: a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram. A screening mammogram is used as a way of testing for breast cancer, even when there are no visible signs or symptoms that it might be present. A diagnostic mammogram is performed when a problem or abnormality is found during a screening that needs to be further investigated. In addition, the diagnostic mammogram is used for those who have previously been treated for breast cancer or have visible signs or symptoms that need to be examined. The American Cancer Society recommends that women over the age of 45 should get annual screening mammograms. The ACS further states that if a woman doesn’t begin getting annual mammograms, they increase their chances of dying from breast cancer and the likelihood that they will need to undergo more extensive treatment for any cancers that may be found.

The Facts: Mammograms Save Lives

  • The increasing likelihood that women will receive annual mammograms after the age of 45 has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the United States by nearly 40% since 1990.
  • Contrary to popular belief, a majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer and are not considered “high-risk” patients. This is the reason all women should receive regular screenings regardless of family history.
  • If women over 50 avoid getting a mammogram at least every other year, 30% of cancers would be missed and lose out on early detection.
  • Women under 45 with no family history of breast cancer are still advised by medical professionals to perform regular self-examinations of their breasts.


Worried About Breast Compression

Women sometimes avoid mammograms because they are worried that the breast compression that takes place during a screening might cause discomfort. However, this is a vital part of the mammogram procedure because it reduces the breast’s thickness and equalizes the breast tissue so the test can produce better quality, readable images. Breast compression also serves the following purposes:

  • It reduces the radiation dose necessary to capture the screening image by decreasing breast thickness and spreading out uneven thickness.
  • It prevents movement so there will be no blurring in the images captured by the machine.
  • It separates breast tissues so it is easier to evaluate any possible lesions that would be likely to be hidden among breast tissue.
  • It diminishes scatter radiation which lessens the amount of exposure the rest of your body would experience during the screening.


Factors That Make You High-Risk

Certain factors could cause you to be at a higher risk of breast cancer than other women. It is important to familiarize yourself with these so you know when to start getting annual mammograms. If you have a history of breast cancer in your close relatives, then it is suggested you start receiving annual mammograms ten years earlier than when that family member was first diagnosed. For example, if your mom was 40 when she was diagnosed, it’s recommended you start getting annual mammograms at 30. Other higher-risk factors include:

  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Genetic mutation known to raise the risk of breast cancer
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy
  • Previous radiation therapy to chest area
  • Overweight or obese

The average price for a mammogram is $300 but ZendyHealth can help you get the test for significantly less.  Our mammogram offering includes a screening or diagnostic mammogram, an imaging review by a board-certified radiologist and report for your doctor, and a computer disc/digital copy of your report.


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