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Keefe Memorial Hospital

Why mammograms matter

Breast cancer is very common in the US. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer at some point during their lifetime.

It is the most common cancer for American women, except for skin cancers. Some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know. However, it is not only women who get breast cancer – although 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women, 2,400 are diagnosed in men.

For the women who are diagnosed, breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence if it is caught early enough. According to the American Cancer Society, early-stage breast cancer has a five-year survival rate of 99%. However, later-stage cancer has a survival rate of 27%. It is therefore critical that you catch breast cancer as early as possible.

Mammograms are the best technology we have available to detect breast cancers. Your annual exam could be what saves your life. Also, in addition to being lifesaving, there are other benefits of catching breast cancer early. The smaller the cancer detected, the less likely it is that the disease will have spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. This means that the cancer is more treatable and there is less likelihood of you needing aggressive treatment after surgery such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Women whose cancers are detected at smaller sizes are much more likely to be able to have a lumpectomy, rather than a more aggressive surgery. A lumpectomy is a surgical operation in which a lump is removed from the breast, typically when cancer is present but has not spread to other parts of the body. It removes the tumor and a very small amount of healthy tissue. It’s important that you check your breasts regularly so that you can have the best chance of catching cancer early.

How mammograms work

Mammograms are the only proven method of reducing tests due to breast cancer by detecting breast cancer early. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray picture of the breast. A mammogram does use radiation, but at a very low level and within medical guidelines.

Here, at Keefe Memorial Hospital, we offer 3D mammography services. Our 3D mammogram is an imaging test that combines multiple X-rays to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast to help us better detect growths or abnormalities. 3D mammography is the most modern screening and diagnostic tool available for the early detection of breast cancer. It takes multiple images of the breast in thin sections and combines these to create a 3D picture. It provides greater clarity and the ability to spot the difference between dense or overlapping normal tissue and cancerous tissue.

Mammograms won’t find every single cancer, but they can help find cancer at an early stage before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.

When you need a mammogram

The American Cancer Society’s guidelines lay out when a typical woman will need to start having regular mammograms.
• Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
• Women aged 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
• Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years or can continue yearly screening.
• Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

In addition to a mammogram, sometimes we recommend that women should also be screened with MRIs. This might be due to family history or other genetic factors, for example for women with dense breast tissue. This is because the dense tissue might hide cancerous cells.

Also, women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a healthcare provider as soon as they can. If you do not know how to check your breasts, read this article, “Breast self-exam”, from the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Please be aware that you should be checking your breasts in addition to getting a mammogram – a mammogram can detect cancer before it becomes noticeable in a self-exam.

What to know before your mammogram visit

Before you go along to your mammogram visit at Keefe Memorial Hospital, please be aware of a few things that will help the process go more smoothly:
• If you have had other mammograms before, at a different facility, please bring them along or share them with us before the appointment.
• Don’t wear deodorant or any lotions or powders in your armpits or on your breasts on the day of the exam. Particles from these could show up in an X-ray and interfere with the scan.
• If you have breast implants, we may need to take more pictures, so please let us know.
• Let us know if you have any physical disabilities that make it hard for you to sit up, lift your arms or hold your breath so that we can make accommodations.

What will happen at your mammogram visit

To get your mammogram you will need to remove your top and bra. When you are standing in front of the machine, a clinician will place your breast on a small platform. A transparent plastic plate will push down on your breast for a few seconds while they take the mammogram image. The breast needs to be squeezed a little so that it flattens out and spreads out the breast tissue so that it doesn’t overlap as much. This helps us get a clearer look at the breast tissue. After the appointment, we will provide you with a summary of your mammography results.

If you have any questions about mammograms or would like to make an appointment, please get in touch with either our Kit Carson Clinic or Prairie View Clinic [link to contact page].

You can find out more about the services we offer women on our Well Women Clinic page.