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Your Mammogram: Me-time That Really Matters

  • Category: Cancer Care, Health Tips
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Irene Dansby, MD, Medical Director, Community Memorial Breast Center

Over the summer, pink was all about the Barbie movie. Now that the craze has died down, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is here to remind us that pink also represents the second most common cancer in women: breast cancer. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life and 42,000 die of the disease every year. While these statistics are sobering, there is one simple thing you can do to protect yourself — get your yearly mammogram. Early detection is your best protection.

Every year, nearly 300,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer.. One in five of those cancers is ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS). DCIS is a stage one breast cancer where a tumor is still non- or pre-invasive. Almost all women diagnosed at this early stage can be cured. The less time a tumor has been growing, and the smaller it is, the better a woman’s odds of avoiding a recurrence. And while mammogram is the best way to detect cancer at its earliest and most curable stage, many women — especially first-timers — put off this critical screening. Several factors contribute to this:

  • Until their first mammogram, many women worry about pain, but a mammogram is generally just mildly uncomfortable at worst.
  • Women often voice concern about radiation. The radiation from a mammogram is quite low — about the same amount of exposure you get from your natural surroundings in seven weeks.
  • Despite the fact that the odds are on their side, the most common fear women share is apprehension over what their mammogram might reveal — Of the 10% of women who get regular mammograms and are called back for further testing, only 0.5% percent are diagnosed with cancer.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

While it may be unsettling to evaluate your risk factors, you should know that most women have at least one or two. Think of risk factors as empowering — they are built-in reminders to stay on top of your mammogram schedule.

Risk Factors You Cannot Change:

  • Age: Your risk increases with age, and most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed after age 50.
  • Genetic mutations such as BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, or CHEK2.
  • Starting menstruation before the age of 12 and starting menopause after the age of 55 exposes women to estrogen longer, which raises breast cancer risk.
  • Dense breasts, which can make it harder to detect tiny tumors on a mammogram.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical ductal hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ.
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer — if you woman have a mother, sister, daughter, or multiple family members who have had breast or ovarian cancer, your risk for breast cancer is higher.
  • Prior radiation therapy to the chest or breasts.

Risk Factors You Can Control:

  • A sedentary lifestyle. Women who are not physically active have a higher breast cancer risk.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Hormone replacement therapy taken for more than five years during menopause.
  • The use of certain oral contraceptives. Talk to your doctor about this if you are on the pill.
  • Having a first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and/or never having a full-term pregnancy.
  • Drinking alcohol. Your risk for breast cancer increases with increased alcohol consumption.
  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke raise the risk for several types of cancer, including breast cancer.

Community Memorial’s Screening Recommendation

Community Memorial recommends yearly mammogram screenings starting at age 40. Studies have shown that this decreases mortality by 30%. This recommendation is supported by The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Radiology, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and the Society of Breast Imaging. Women who have extra risk factors (see above) should start earlier. If your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40, we recommend starting ten years prior to her age at diagnosis.

Women with an elevated breast cancer risk and/or dense breasts should have a supplemental yearly screening with breast ultrasound, either at the same time as their screening mammogram, or six months later. Be sure to discuss this with your primary care provider or OB/GYN.

Learn more about the importance of early detection and mammograms by listening to this podcast with Dr. Irene Dansby, Medical Director of Community Memorial Breast Center.

About Our Breast Center

Located on the campus of Community Memorial Hospital – Ventura, our Breast Center is the first medical facility in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to be designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. This designation reflects our full accreditation in:

  • Mammography
  • Stereotactic breast biopsy
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Breast ultrasound guided biopsy

Our Breast Center is equipped with state-of-the-art imaging technologies. We use 3-D tomosynthesis, the latest breast imaging technology approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for all our annual screenings. As the most sensitive type of mammography available today, tomosynthesis facilitates earlier detection and clearer imaging of dense breasts.

Schedule Your Mammogram at Community Memorial Breast Center today.

Many women put off their mammograms during the pandemic and have yet to return to routine screenings. If this sounds like you, now is the time to talk to your doctor and get an order for the appropriate exam:

  • If you don’t have any worrisome symptoms, schedule a screening mammography.
  • If you find a lump or experience pain, nipple discharge, or a rash on your breast, your primary care provider or OB/GYN may want to order a diagnostic mammogram and a breast ultrasound.
  • Feel free to contact the breast center directly at 805-948-5093 to schedule your screening and we can help you determine which exam is right for you.