Advances in breast cancer prevention and treatment have come a long way since our mother’s or grandmother’s days; however, according to Susan G. Komen women in the U.S. have a “1 in 8” lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. Whether or not a woman gets breast cancer is largely out of her control, as risk factors include family history, lifestyle, reproduction, and the environment.
Knowing that getting breast cancer is largely out of your control makes it even more important to take getting regular screenings seriously. When breast cancer is caught early on, there is a much better chance of the cancer being treated effectively before it becomes serious and even life-threatening.
At Rawlins County Health Center, we offer a range of diagnostic services, including mammography. Our hospital uses the latest technology to get a better picture of the breast tissue in order to help our physicians make a more accurate diagnosis.
For women who have never had a mammogram, we understand that it can be a scary and overwhelming process. But we want to assure you that the screening is quick and painless for most women. Keep reading to learn more about mammography and call our Atwood hospital today to schedule a screening.
When Should Women Start Getting Mammograms?
According to the American Cancer Society, women between the ages of 40 and 44 should begin having regular breast cancer screenings. Women between 45 and 54 should get a mammogram once per year. And women who are 55 and older can switch to getting a screening once every other year. If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, you may want to talk to your doctor about being screened with MRI in addition to having an X-ray screening.
How Do You Complete a Self Examination?
In addition to getting a yearly or every other year screening, women should also complete self-examinations. These should be done once every month and should also be taken seriously. Before you get out of bed in the morning, or in the shower, raise your left arm above your head, and with the right hand using medium pressure, use your fingers to inspect the tissue around the entire breast area and the armpit. Complete this process on the other side and consult with your local hospital if you feel anything abnormal.
What to Know Before Getting a Mammogram
- Don’t wear deodorant: Because a mammogram scans the entire breast area as well as the armpit, ingredients in deodorant can interfere with the final images. If you do wear deodorant, it can show up on the image as white spots, which can be hard to distinguish from white cancerous spots.
- Schedule the screening two weeks after your period: The breast tissue tends to be tender and slightly swollen during menstruation, so the process may be more uncomfortable if the tissue is sensitive.
- Know your family history: Before the actual screening takes place, the doctor will ask about your family’s health history. Keep in mind that even if no one in your family has had breast cancer, there is still a risk of developing it. The more thorough a history you can provide, the better.
What Does Getting a Mammogram Involve?
Breast cancer screenings are generally a fast process (about 15 to 30 minutes), so there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. You will be given a gown and asked to undress from the waist up for the imaging. The technologist will take two images of each breast, one from the top and one from the side, making a total of four images.
Mammograms are X-rays of the breasts and during the screening, each breast will be placed in between two plates, which then compresses the tissue in order to get a clear image. The plates may be cold to the touch, and you may experience some uncomfortable pressure, but few women experience pain. Mammograms give off a very small level of radiation and are completely safe.
What Happens After a Mammogram?
After the mammogram is complete, you will receive a letter in the mail usually within 30 days. If you are called and asked to come into the hospital to review the results, it does not mean you have cancer, and in fact, this is fairly common. It simply means that they have found something suspicious. It could be a cyst or a tumor. If there is a tumor, it may need to be biopsied, but this still does not mean you have cancer. During a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed in an out-patient procedure. The results from this will tell whether or not the tumor is cancerous or benign, or not cancerous.
If you’re over 40 years old and have not yet had a mammogram, get in touch with our hospital staff to schedule an appointment today. The best way to prevent breast cancer is with regular screenings and self-examinations.