With national breast cancer awareness month approaching so soon it’s the perfect time to stay up-to-date on current breast cancer facts and schedule your screening mammogram if you’re due or experiencing symptoms. As we enter into October, you should ask yourself when your last breast cancer screening was and if it’s been a year or more it may be time to consult with your physician and add a mammogram appointment to your calendar. Remember, taking preventative steps in managing your health is the first step towards fighting against breast cancer and living longer, fuller, healthier lives.
Although there may be a few rumors or stigmas floating around here and there about breast cancer screenings and mammograms, I’m here to give you a first-hand break down of what to expect during your breast cancer screening so that you can walk in feeling more comfortable and ready to take precaution in your health without the burden of common fears and stress on what to expect.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Ilona Carlos (pictured left), who is a practicing physician at St. Joseph Hospital, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Thorek Memorial Hospitals, and Lakeview Women’s Health in Chicago, about breast cancer screening mammograms and what to expect during patient visits. Check out our Breast Cancer Mammogram Screening Q&A:
The Breast Cancer Mammogram Q&A
What is a mammogram? A mammogram is an x-ray of the breasts.
How do screenings and diagnostic mammograms differ? Screening mammograms are used to look for breast disease in women with no symptoms or breast problems. Diagnostic mammograms are used to diagnose breast disease in women with breast problems or had an abnormal screening mammogram.
What kinds of procedures can patients expect during breast cancer screenings and diagnostic mammograms? Two or more views of each breast are taken by compressing breast tissue in between 2 flat plates. Actual compression of the breasts only lasts a few seconds but the whole procedure takes about 15-20 minutes.
How often should I receive a breast cancer screening or mammogram? The American Cancer Society recommends that women 40 and older have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.
Can breast cancer screenings and diagnostic mammograms cause discomfort or pain? You may feel some discomfort or even pain during the compression of your breasts. Try not to schedule your mammogram right before or during your period since breasts are likely to be more tender at that time.
How much does a mammogram typically cost? The average cost of a mammogram is $100-$150 but can range anywhere from $75-$300.
How can uninsured or low-income women obtain free or low-cost screening mammograms? Most facilities offer discounted rates for self-pay patients. Also, during the Breast Cancer Awareness Month of October every year, many hospitals and imaging centers will offer specials.
Are women with breast implants able to receive screening mammograms? Yes, but additional views may need to be taken with the implants displaced in order to get optimal images for evaluation.
What are the differences between digital, conventional and 3D mammography? How can patients determine the best mammography type for their specific needs? Conventional mammography records images on large sheets of photographic film. Digital mammography records and stores images on a computer. 3D mammography is an extension of digital mammography that takes many x-ray views to create a 3-dimensional image for evaluation. Talk to your doctor about which type is available at your local facility to determine which is best for you.
What preventative steps can I take to decrease my risk of contracting breast cancer? Some lifestyle-related risk factors for breast cancer are alcohol consumption and being overweight or obese. Regular exercise reduces breast cancer risk. Breastfeeding also reduces breast cancer risk.
What should I do if I have been diagnosed with breast cancer? Your doctor will refer you to a specialist who will discuss all treatment options.
What resources can women seek to find breast cancer radiologists or specialists in their area? Your physician is the best resource to find breast cancer radiologists or specialists in your area.
Check Out Your Resources
Here are additional resources that you can refer to for more information about breast cancer, screening mammograms, physicians, treatment options, funding, and other community and national breast cancer initiatives.
- American Cancer Society (ACS) www.cancer.org
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) www.acog.org
- American College of Radiology (ACR) www.acr.org
- The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) www.asco.org
- The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) www.amwa-doc.org
- AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation www.astrazeneca-us.com/foundation
- CancerCare www.cancercare.org
- Men Against Breast Cancer (MABC) www.menagainstbreastcancer.org
- National Medical Association (NMA) www.nmanet.org
- The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) www.ons.org
- Prevent Cancer Foundation www.preventcancer.org
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure www.komen.org
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) www.cms.gov
- National Cancer Institute (NCI) www.cancer.org