Mammography is the best screening tool for breast cancer used today. It can find cancers at an early stage, when they are small (too small to be felt) and chances of survival are highest. However according to a study reported in 2011, only about 50 percent of women age 40 and over WITH insurance received mammograms as recommended.
Susan G. Komen recommends that women at average risk should begin receiving screening mammograms annually at age 40,. For those who are at a higher risk for breast cancer (link to http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/RiskFactorsSummaryTable.html), it is recommended that you speak with your doctor about screening options right for you personal screening recommendations.
The reasons that women choose not to get mammograms are numerous but many simply come from incorrect information.
I don't need a mammogram because . . .
No one in my family has ever had breast cancer.
The truth is that the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have NO family history. You can still get breast cancer even if no one in your family has had the diagnosis. The biggest risks for breast cancer are being female and getting older.
Having a mammogram is painful!
A mammogram does require compression of the breast, which is not always comfortable, but the mammogram should NEVER hurt! Consider getting your mammogram between days seven to 14 of your menstrual cycle. Well-trained mammography technologists should listen to their patients and should never compress beyond the patient’s comfort level. Some health systems offer free mammopads - a soft, thin foam cushion - which can also help with comfort. Let your mammography technologist know if you've had a difficult experience in the past. Let your technologist know if the compression hurts.
I’m too busy for a mammogram, especially since I think they are a waste of time.
Mammograms are not perfect, but they are the best screening tool we have today for breast cancer. Some mammograms may show an abnormality that requires additional imaging and a biopsy and no cancer is found. This is called a false positive. Some women have dense breast tissue or for other reasons, a cancer may be hidden on a mammogram. This is called a false negative. However, mammography correctly identifies about 78 percent of women who have breast cancer, and for women 50 and over, mammography correctly identifies about 83 percent of breast cancers correctly. In other words, mammograms save lives – and it is the best screening tool widely available that can find breast cancer early!
Having a mammogram causes cancer.
A woman is exposed to a small amount of radiation during a mammogram and while the radiation exposure is associated with a higher risk for breast cancer over time, studies show that the benefits of mammography outweigh the risks from radiation exposure.
I don't want to know if I have breast cancer.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer death. Getting regular screening tests is the best way for women to lower their risk of dying from breast cancer. Screening tests can find breast cancer early, when the chances of survival are highest. Over the past 20 years, great progress has been made in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, leading to decreased mortality rates. As a result, the number of breast cancer survivors continues to rise. In fact, there are almost three million breast cancer survivors in the United States today (more than any other group of cancer survivors)!
1. Have a clinical breast exam beginning at age 20, at least every three years and annually beginning at age 40.
2. Have a mammogram annually beginning at age 40.
3. If you are at a higher risk of breast cancer, talk with your doctor about which screening tests are right for you.
4. Sign up for your screening reminder at www.komen.org/reminder
Be proactive about your health and get your mammogram. If not for yourself, then for all those who love you and couldn’t imagine a life without you!