NEW PRAGUE, Minn. — One in eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. For those women who are a part of this statistic (according to breastcancer.org), the diagnosis can be accompanied by devastation, anxiety and fear. Because of this, providers at Mayo Clinic Health System believe important conversations surrounding screening and prevention need to take place.
“Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers for women, so regular screenings are of paramount importance,” says Arunabh Sekhri, M.B.B.S., Mayo Clinic Health System in New Prague oncologist. “Mammograms are essential for early detection of breast cancer. Early detection is the key contributor to the patient’s outcome. Mortality from breast cancer has dropped slightly, which has been attributed to mammographic screening.”
A mammogram is an X-ray image of the breast. During a mammogram, the breasts are compressed between two surfaces in order to spread out the breast tissue to help capture the best image. From there, the X-ray captures an image of the breasts, and the image is then examined by a doctor. By reviewing these images, doctors can scope out any potential-abnormalities in the breast tissue.
The two main purposes for mammography are for screening and diagnosing. Screening mammography is simply done in order to detect anything abnormal before the woman experiences any other symptoms, and should be a regular part of the annual examination. These are incredibly important because they help health care professionals stay one step ahead of cancer and aid in early detection.
Diagnostic mammography is used to look further into anything concerning that has already been found in the breast. Lumps, pain, skin appearance and changes in the nipple are all factors that are considered when using diagnostic mammography.
According to Dr. Sekhri, there is some disagreement among medical experts on when women should begin screening and the frequency of screenings. However, talking to your provider will help you decide when the time is right for you to start screening mammography. Dr. Sekhri also suggests a few things to consider if you’re unsure about setting up your first mammogram:
- Women with an average risk of breast cancer can choose to be screened annually starting at age 40.
- Women with a high risk of breast cancer may want to have their first screening before age 40.
- Family history of breast cancer or a history of precancerous breast lesions may put you at high risk for breast cancer. If you aren’t sure of your level of risk, talk to your health care provider.
Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities that serve the health care needs of people in more than 60 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.