7 Truths About Mammograms

October is a special month designated by the American Cancer Society to help raise awareness for breast cancer. We feel October is a good time to remind women 40 and over to schedule their mammogram.

Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and help decrease breast cancer deaths. The goal is to detect breast cancer before clinical signs are noticeable. Mammograms can often show a breast lump before it can be felt. Here are seven tips to help answer your questions about getting a mammogram.

  1. Mammograms are to look for changes not cancer. A mammogram is an X-ray that allows a qualified physician to examine the breast tissue for any suspicious areas or areas of change from the previous mammogram. If the mammogram shows an abnormal area of the breast, your doctor may order additional tests offering clearer, more detailed images of that area (lumps are usually non-cancerous and can be caused by fatty cells, calcium, or other conditions like cysts).
  2. Mammograms don’t cause cancer. During a mammogram the breast is exposed to a small dose of iodizing radiation that produces an image of the breast tissue.
  3. Mammograms aren’t painful. During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between two firm surfaces to spread out the breast tissue. Some women find this uncomfortable, but tolerable, for the brief time it takes to have the mammogram. Schedule the test for a time when your breasts are least likely to be tender (usually during the week after your menstrual period).
  4. 3D Mammograms are revolutionary for women with dense breasts. If the radiologist takes a mammogram and notices dense breasts, they may switch to 3D mammography technology. By using this advanced technology, they can reduce the number of call-backs for tests by up to 40 percent. A 3D mammography also has the capability of identifying abnormalities that are not easily seen on a regular diagnostic digital mammogram.
  5. Women should start mammograms at age 40. If you have family history of breast cancer it may be recommended you have one prior to 40. There have been a lot of changes in recommendations for mammograms but most of the surgical and radiology cooperative groups recommend that beginning at age 40 an annual mammogram is indicated until age 70. Women who are younger than 40 with a “high risk” for breast cancer should ask their healthcare professional whether mammograms are advisable before age 40 and how often to have them.
  6. Mammograms are sensitive to deodorants. Don’t use deodorant before your mammogram (deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams or perfumes under your arms or on your breasts may contain metallic particles that could be visible on your mammogram and cause confusion).
  7. Results of the mammogram can be immediate. A diagnostic mammogram is read instantaneously at St. Elizabeth’s facilities. Screening mammography results can take as little as two days, but you will be notified in writing of your results in about seven days or sooner. Bring your prior mammogram images with you (if you’re going to a new facility) so that the radiologist can compare them with your new images.

“In addition to your annual mammography, I think everyone should do regular self-examinations,” said Dr. Michael Guenther, Clinical Director of the Breast Program at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “There’s a lot of controversy about breast self-examination. I believe women always know themselves better than anyone else does so we encourage breast self-examination. I think being proactive is an important part of early detection of breast cancer.”

Schedule your mammogram today. A mammogram only takes 10 minutes, but it could save your life. If you’re due for an annual mammogram, schedule one today. Call (859) 655-7400.

Choose a NAPBC (National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers) and an “ACR (American College of Radiologists) Breast Centers of Excellence” certified mammogram facility or its mobile mammography van to schedule your mammogram. Look to see when our mobile mammography van will be near you.

Schedule a Power Lunch, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Covington and St. Elizabeth Ft. Thomas. You and seven friends get free lunch, conversation with a medical expert on the latest developments in women’s health, digital screening mammograms and free chair massages. Call (859) 655-8777.

Note: If you are unable to afford a mammogram, contact St. Elizabeth Healthcare to determine if you qualify for financial assistance.