October is breast cancer awareness month so, let’s talk about the mammaries.
I am a 30 year mammo tech and these are the most common questions or discussions I’ve had over the years.
What is a mammogram? Most people have an idea of what that involves but many first timers are pretty nervous. I’ve had many first timers come in for their mammogram scared to death because their friends and loved ones have told them horror stories about the process. It’s almost like an initiation to be inducted into the mammogram club. Here’s what I have to say to those caring and loving folks …. STOP!
Mammograms are a screening test using low dose radiation to check for breast cancer. There are other options but mammograms are still the best and most cost effective way to screen for breast cancer.
Screening breast ultrasounds are becoming increasingly popular for women who have dense breast tissue. However, ultrasounds very rarely are used without first having a mammogram done. These ultrasounds are used when the reading radiologist deems them necessary and not per request from the patient.
Most common responses to having a mammogram is that they are uncomfortable but not necessarily painful. Usually, the patients think the test was much easier than the all of the hype led them to believe. Every person is different and so their sensitivity to a mammogram is on a case by case basis. A few minutes of discomfort could equal a years’ worth of peace of mind. Pain, is NOT usually a symptom of breast cancer.
Don’t depend on a mammogram to find a “something “ if you’re having a problem. Some cancers do not show up on a mammogram so other means are used to evaluate. Tell your health care provider what you are experiencing so that further testing can be conducted if necessary.
To give yourself the best chance of finding breast cancer early these 3 things are important:
-Monthly Breast Self-exams,
-Yearly clinical breast exams in your doctor’s office are recommended for ages 40 and older.
-Screening mammograms- ACR recommendations are yearly. However, recommended intervals vary from organization to organization.
MEN do get mammograms. Men are usually in for diagnostic mammograms because they have usually discovered a lump or swelling in their breast. Thankfully, most men with lumps get diagnosed with a benign condition called gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is swollen male breast tissue caused by a hormone imbalance. 1 in 833 men do get breast cancer. Early detection is key for boosting your chances of beating breast cancer, and many men do tend to wait longer to get checked out. So by the time they finally get checked out, their cancer is more advanced.
-Women of the United States have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
-In 2023 an estimated 297,790 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women from the USA.
-There are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the USA.
-Baseline mammograms are usually done at age 40.
A popular question that a I get is "When can I stop having mammograms?" The answer is not simple.
The American Cancer Society states: “Women should continue screening with mammography as long as their overall health is good, and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or more.”
Most guidelines state that continuing to receive a mammogram after age 75 is a personal decision a woman should make in collaboration with her healthcare provider, particularly for breast cancer survivors.
I’m am apparently a walking reminder for annual mammograms. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have been stopped by someone just for them to tell me that they need to come see me. So, if you need a mammy come see Tammy!