Breast Cancer Awareness: The Importance of Mammography
October is almost over and before it is, I wanted to make one last post in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All month we've been wearing pink and sharing stories; but I want all of us to remember that as October comes to an end, we can't forget about this important subject. We've "talked the talk" and now we must "walk the walk" and that means - getting our mammograms.
As most of you already know, a mammogram is used to detect and diagnose early signs of breast cancer by producing images of the breast tissue that will show any abnormal activity that could be cancer. A mammogram can show changes within the breast up to two years before a physician or patient can feel them! The ACS (American Cancer Society) recommends that women at average risk for breast cancer get an annual mammogram starting at age 40 and that women at high risk begin mammograms ten years earlier.
I have been getting mammograms every year since I was 40 and recently my gynecologist told me about a new type of mammogram he recommended called a Tomosynthesis or the 3D Mammogram, that just became available a little over a year ago. This type of mammogram looks deeper into the breast tissue, layer by layer to get a more detailed and efficient picture of each breast. With 3D mammography, our physicians are currently experiencing increases in breast cancer detection of 38%, and reduced patient callback rates of 20 to 30%. When you visit your doctor I recommend you ask about this new type of mammogram. The 3D exam will cost an additional fee (depending on your insurance) but the more efficient the mammogram the better chance we have at an earlier detection.
In addition to my mammogram examination my gynecologist also recommends a breast ultrasound. An ultrasound of the breast is a safe and painless procedure that produces pictures of the breasts using sound waves. Getting this procedure in addition to your mammogram allows your physician to evaluate blood flow or lack of flow in any breast mass. In some cases this may provide vital information in diagnosis.
I know that these extra tests will most likely be an added expense, but early detection is the key to saving lives and our health is in our own hands. Being proactive could save your life and that is more important than anything. So instead of buying that fabulous new sweater you saw at the mall, spend the money on the 3D mammogram!
Along with getting your yearly mammogram, there are different ways to detect breast cancer early. Each month give yourself a self examination by feeling your breasts in search of lumps or something abnormal. A good time to do this is while in the shower.
One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and we need to do everything in our power to help ourselves to lower those numbers. Mammograms have reduced breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 1/3 since 1990. I can not stress how important it is to get a yearly exam.
If anyone has any inspirational or life changing stories they would like to share I would love to hear them and possibly share them on my website. Hearing women's stories from around the world can bring us together. There is power in numbers and no one fighting cancer should feel alone.