By Frank Mooring, MD
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many women have questions about breast cancer and mammograms. Over 200,000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer and over 40,000 a year die from the disease. Bear in mind these facts:
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, aside from skin cancer;
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, after lung cancer;
- One in every eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
However, women who undergo treatment for breast cancers found at the earliest stage have more than a 98 percent survival rate at five years. That’s why having a screening mammogram is so important, because mammograms can detect breast cancers earlier than clinical breast exams.
Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. When their breast cancer is found early, many women go on to live long and healthy lives.
According to the National Cancer Institute, women ages 40 and older should include a mammogram as part of their annual physical – and those with a family history of breast cancer or have had other breast problems might need to begin getting mammograms earlier than age 40 or more often.
A mammogram detects changes in breast tissue that are not normal, such as lumps or masses and calcifications, by using a low-dose X-ray. A mammogram is read by a radiologist, who will compare your past mammograms with your most recent one to check for changes.
At Rutherford Regional Health System, mammograms are provided through digital mammography, which allows the radiologist to view the X-ray image more closely, zeroing in on suspicious or concerning areas. Digital mammography provides not only better images of the breast, it also reduces the amount of radiation needed for quality images.
Should a change be detected in your breasts during a routine mammogram, you will have a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram is similar to a screening mammogram, but takes longer because it involves more X-rays in order to obtain views of the breast from several angles. Your physician may also order other tests, such as an ultrasound, MRI or biopsy.
For more information about mammograms and breast health, please contact The Mammography Place at Rutherford Regional Health System at 828-286-5670 or learn more at www.MyRutherfordRegional.com.
Frank Mooring, MD