Understanding the Facts About Mammograms
Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is approaching soon, is a good time to learn more about breast cancer. Breast cancer affects one in every eight women, and it is nearly impossible to find someone without a friend or loved one who has dealt with this dreadful disease.
During this month, many organizations focus on sharing knowledge with women around the world about the importance of early detection and regular screenings. As part of these campaigns, women are reminded to speak with their doctor and determine the best time to begin annual mammograms or at least schedule their first mammography.
Some women are reluctant to begin the routine of getting mammograms. Perhaps they have heard things that make them frightened, or they think they serve no purpose. But, mammograms are one of the best ways to detect breast cancer, especially in the early stages.
Here, we will share some myths about mammograms and set the record straight with the facts.
Mammograms: Myths and Facts
Myth: If you don’t have a strong family history of breast cancer or symptoms of breast cancer, you don’t need a mammogram.
Fact: Family history is just one risk factor associated with breast cancer. Some other risk factors can include age, genetics, and weight.
Medical guidelines recommend that all women begin annual screenings by 40. High-risk women, women with breast cancer in their family, or women with symptoms might obviously have their first mammogram earlier.
Myth: Mammograms give off unsafe levels of radiation and cause cancer.
Fact: Mammograms involve little radiation exposure. The radiation dose utilized to perform a mammogram is similar to that of an x-ray. The extremely low risk of harm from this screening tool is vastly outweighed by the benefits of early detection of breast cancer.
Myth: If you have a normal mammogram one year, you don’t need a mammogram the following year.
Fact: Women should have yearly mammograms even if the results come back normal. The reason for annual screening is to increase the chance of detecting breast cancer early. An annual mammogram can help ensure that if you do develop breast cancer, it will be discovered at an early stage, increasing the likelihood of survival. The survival rates for women with late-stage cancer are significantly worse than those for women diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage.
Myth: There is no point in getting a mammogram if you have dense breasts.
Fact: Having dense breasts or dense breast tissue can make it more difficult to detect cancer on a mammogram, but there are other types of breast cancer screening. In addition to ordering a mammogram, doctors can request additional types of breast imaging tests to supplement a mammogram. Your health care provider can order a breast MRI or breast ultrasound to help locate any cancers that might be hiding.
Myth: If I don’t detect any abnormalities when I conduct self-exams, there is no need to have a mammogram.
Fact: Most women know the importance of conducting a monthly self-exam of their breasts. But, some breast cancers are not detected during breast self-exams. Not all breast cancers present with distinct breast lumps that you can feel when you conduct your self-exam. If you do feel symptoms of breast cancer, it might be because cancer has begun to spread.
Having an annual mammogram can be critical to the early detection of breast cancer. When you don’t detect abnormalities, breast cancer can still be present and developing into something even more dangerous.
Myth: Mammograms are painful
Fact: This is one of the most persistent myths out there about mammograms. It is important to realize that everyone’s pain threshold is different. Some women report having only minor discomfort during their mammogram screenings, while others report feeling like an elephant is stepping on their breasts.
Most women feel something in between. The good news is that whatever it is you feel during your regular mammograms, it lasts just a few seconds. The discomfort is well worth the benefits of detecting breast cancer as early as possible.
Myth: There is no point in having mammograms because they are inaccurate and don’t affect the outcome if you have cancer.
Fact: Having a mammography is not a foolproof way to detect breast cancer. Some mammograms produce questionable results and require women to have additional images or tests to determine if breast cancer is present. The truth is that mammograms are the best tools we have right now to help with the early detection of breast cancer.
The invention of 3D mammograms has made the results even more accurate than ever. According to Johnshopkins.com, 3D mammograms have resulted in a 40% increase in early breast cancer detection and a 40% decrease in “false alarms” and “unnecessary recalls from screening.”
Despite occasional inaccuracies, the benefits of annual mammograms far outweigh the few false positives or negatives that might occur. Remember, there is a 99% survival rate for women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. That survival rate falls into the 25% range for women diagnosed with late-stage breast cancers.
Myth: I can’t have screening mammograms because I have breast implants
Fact: Having breast implants does not mean you don’t need or can’t have mammograms. Women with breast implants should notify their doctors and mammogram technicians and follow their screening instructions.
Breast implants can make it difficult to see all of the breast tissue and may require extra images. Women with breast implants may face some discomfort during the screening mammogram as the technician tries to obtain images of as much breast tissue as possible, increasing the ability to detect cancer.
Debunking Mammogram Myths Can Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths
Knowledge is power. Don’t let mammogram myths prevent you from seeking this effective, easy breast cancer screening test. All women have some chance of developing breast cancer. Older women and younger women have a greater chance of survival when you find breast cancer early. Late-stage cancers are the most dangerous. Self-exams combined with annual mammograms are currently the most effective ways to detect cancer of the breasts.
Know the mammogram facts. They regular mammograms can save lives.
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