What You Need to Know About Mammogram Screenings
Breast Cancer Awareness Month started on October 1. To celebrate, you plan to make an appointment with your provider to get a mammogram, yes? If not, you’re not alone.
The value of a mammogram screening is still misunderstood. So let’s take a look at what a mammogram is, why it’s important to get one and the truth about the common misunderstandings that surround one — because a mammogram screening may one day save your life.
“As caregivers,” said Equality Health’s Cultural Care Manager, Maria Rebozo-La Pine, “we worry about those who depend on us because if something happens to us, who would provide care for our family, our children and our parents who depend on us? In order to be able to care for your family, you need to be healthful yourself.”
The Mammogram Screening
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of your breast that doctors use to look for early signs of cancer. A mammogram screening only takes X-ray images of your breasts. There is no exploring of any other part of your body. The test only takes about 20 minutes of your time, but it provides lifesaving detailed images of what’s going on inside your breasts.
Mammogram results are considered so beneficial, the American Medical Association, the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society (ACA), the National Cancer Institute and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network all recommend mammogram screenings for all women who have an average chance of getting breast cancer to start at age 40.1 The ACA recommends a mammogram screening every year for women between 40 and 54 years old. Women 55 and older should get a mammogram screening every other year.2
Once you have completed the mammogram screening, you will receive results within a week. If the X-rays show everything looks normal, rejoice and enjoy the relief you earned! If the X-rays show an area of concern, your provider will want to take another test to double-check the results.
Important fact: Only 10-15% of the women receiving mammograms get called back for more tests;3 of those, only half have cancer.4;5
Keep Breast Cancer in Perspective
Doctors usually don’t know why certain women get breast cancer, but the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) states there are certain things called “risk factors” that might increase your chances of getting breast cancer, such as age (over 55), obesity, a family history of breast cancer, having dense breast tissue (fibrous and glandular tissue, which occurs in about 10% of women6), consuming alcohol, not getting enough exercise and a poor diet.7 The ACA includes night-shift work and cautions against environmental chemicals and pollutants.8
The NBCF states the following DO NOT cause breast cancer: caffeine, deodorant, microwaves, cellphones and contact with someone who has cancer. Rebozo-La Pine mentioned other unconnected things you might wonder about, like fatalism. Some Latinas may believe their diagnosis of cancer is punishment for sins in the past. Some believe suffering a frightening or traumatic event (Susto) can lead to cancer. Some think you can get breast cancer if you bumped your breast or it got hit.
“When I was young and my breasts were growing,” recalled Rebozo-La Pine, “my mom really wanted me to protect them since I played sports. She thought if one got hit or elbowed, it could cause me to get breast cancer.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer of women in the U.S. But if you receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, it does not mean you will surely die. The ACS estimates 5,850 women in Arizona will get breast cancer this year, and 900 (about 15%) will die from it.10 The key to survival is early detection (discovering the cancer while it’s in an early stage and has not spread). The ACA states the five-year survival rate of early detection is over 95%.11
Important information: The early stages of breast cancer are often not seen or felt without a mammogram screening.
“Women also need to share things with their provider,” Rebozo-La Pine added. “Everything they see that’s going on with their breasts. A lot of times we don’t share things because we’re embarrassed — maybe our breast looks different or it’s leaking. Whatever it is, let your provider know about it. It is important to share any changes in our bodies with our provider. We don’t always do that.”
The following are common reasons women avoid a mammogram screening. Some may sound like yours.
- I’m not sick. – A mammogram screening is the best way to detect breast cancer in its early stages — sometimes three years before you even know it’s there.12 If nothing is found, the X-rays make an excellent comparison for future tests.
- If I go for a mammogram, they’ll find something. – A mammogram screening is an excellent way to detect breast cancer before you know it’s there, especially in women 50 years and older.13 The good news is only about 10% come back positive.
- What about the radiation? – Did you know you encounter radiation every day just by living on planet Earth?14 The X-rays taken during a mammogram expose you to a fraction — about 13% — of what the average amount each person in the U.S. gets exposed to each year.15
The reasons to schedule a mammogram screening far outweigh any excuse you may have not to get one. There is more time than life. Make the best of the life you have and live it at your healthiest!
Ask your doctor today if you need to schedule your mammogram. Need a doctor? Go to equalityhealth.com/members to find one near you.
8 https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures-2019-2020.pdf, p.18
11 https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures-2019-2020.pdf, p.11
Published in Prensa Arizona, 10/14/2021