Getting a mammogram is an important move in protecting your health. It’s one of the best ways to detect breast cancer when it’s in its earliest stages, which is when it’s often most treatable. But there are a lot of misconceptions about mammograms, some of which you may have even heard.
A mammogram is a safe and effective screening tool and it has saved millions of lives. There’s really no reason to put it off any longer. In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Alan Patterson explains five encouraging facts about mammograms.
A lot of women think that they don’t need to get mammograms because they don’t have a family history of cancer. But the truth is that 85-90% of women who have breast cancer do not have any family history. You can’t assume that you’re in the clear if you don’t have a family history.
The good news is that it’s most likely the case that you don’t have cancer, either, but you want to get screened to be certain. It’s a quick and relatively easy way to get peace of mind.
A lot of women are nervous about radiation exposure from a mammogram. But the truth is that a mammogram offers only about the same amount of radiation as what you get in your average dental exam.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates that mammograms can’t exceed 2 rads (radiation absorbed dose), and the truth is that most mammograms come in at less than this level of radiation.
Even if your breasts are dense, mammograms can still be effective and you should still get them. However, it’s definitely true that having dense breast tissue can make it more difficult to detect lesions on a mammogram. Although mammograms may be more uncomfortable if you have dense breast tissue, they’re even more important.
If you have dense breast tissue, you’ll need to get regular mammograms (at least once a year) and will need to keep up with self-exams as well.
False positives on mammograms are possible but they are the exception. By contrast, the amount of benefit to be gained from the early detection of cancer is much greater. Detecting cancer as early as possible has the best chances of saving your life and decreasing the amount of treatment that you’ll need.
Even if we do find something on a mammogram, that doesn’t always mean that what we find is cancer. If we do find a lump during a mammogram, we’ll remove the lump and have a biopsy performed on the tissue. Many lumps are found to be completely benign. It’s always better to know for sure than to wonder.
Although most women can start having routine mammograms after age 40, some women need to start having them earlier. If you have a first-degree relative (your mother or your sister) who had cancer, you’ll need to start getting screenings 10 years before the age of your relative’s cancer. For example, if your sister was diagnosed with cancer at age 42, you’ll need to start getting mammograms at age 32. Your insurance company should pay for it, as well.
If you haven’t gotten a mammogram yet, there’s no better time to start. Call Dr. Alan Patterson today or request an appointment online.