Mammograms: Why You Need One
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. So, what can you do to protect yourself? One of the best things you can do is to get regular mammograms. But why are mammograms so important? Let’s take a closer look.
Mammograms can detect breast cancer early when it’s most treatable. The earlier breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the better the chances are for successful treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute, if caught early, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99%. However, if breast cancer is not caught early and spreads to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate drops to 27%.
What Happens During a Mammogram?
You will stand in front of an X-ray machine. The X-ray plates will press your breasts from both sides. This may be uncomfortable, but it only lasts for a few seconds. Some women who have had previous breast surgery may require a different type of mammogram called tomosynthesis or 3D mammography. This creates less pressure on the breasts and allows for clear images of all areas of the breast, including hard-to-reach areas.
Once the X-rays are done, a tech will look at them to make sure they’re clear. Then, a radiologist will read them and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will go over the results with you and explain what they mean. They may suggest more tests if something looks abnormal on the mammogram. Don’t hesitate to ask questions so that you understand everything that is happening.
Who Should Get a Mammogram?
The American Cancer Society recommends that women with an average risk of breast cancer get a mammogram every year starting at age 40. If you are at a higher-than-average risk for breast cancer, you may need to start getting mammograms earlier or get them more often. You are at a higher risk if you have a personal history of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. You and your doctor can decide when to start and how often to get a mammogram based on your unique situation.
Are There Risks?
There are very low risks associated with mammograms. You may have some discomfort when your breasts are compressed during the exam. Some women also report feeling anxious before or after the test. But these feelings are temporary and shouldn’t last long.
The small amount of radiation you’re exposed to during a mammogram is also considered low risk. The benefits of getting a mammogram, such as early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, far outweigh any risks associated with the test.
Don’t Put It Off
Don’t wait another day to schedule your annual mammogram! Early detection is key to the successful treatment of breast cancer. With new technology making them more comfortable, there’s no excuse not to get this potentially life-saving screening test today!