Most likely, there is someone in your life who has been affected by breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. About 1 in 8 (12%) women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. In fact, The American Cancer Society’s estimates that there will be 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in U.S. women this year alone.
There is an effective screening method for the early detection of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the most effective tool for helping detect breast cancer early, sometimes even before anything can be felt during a physical exam. With routine screenings, breast cancer can be found in its early stages, when it can be more easily and successfully treated. And, early detection of breast cancer by mammography leads to a greater range of available treatment options.
What is breast cancer and what are the risks?
Breast cancer is an abnormal overgrowth of the cells in the breast that leads to a malignant tumor. Some of the more common risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Personal and family history of breast cancer
- Genetic factors and gynecological history
- Diet, obesity and weight gain
- Lifestyle, including smoking and alcohol consumption
Who should be screened?
The American Cancer Society recommends that average-risk women should undergo annual screening mammography beginning at 45 years of age. Women at the age of 55 may transition to biennial screening, or continue with annual screening.
What is the screening process?
The screening process should include annual visits to an OBGYN or primary care physician for yearly breast exams and to discuss any questions or concerns. A physician may recommend monthly self–breast exams as well. You should have your first mammogram at 45 years of age and then again every year. Make an appointment to speak with your doctor if you have symptoms, breast changes or a family history of breast cancer, as earlier testing may be recommended.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a special type of X–ray test of the breasts. It looks for early signs of breast cancer or other abnormalities. Digital mammography, which provides more detailed views of the breast, is the most sophisticated way to screen for breast cancer. Physicians view the digital breast image on a computer, and can enlarge and enhance any areas of concern. This technology offers the best opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment.
What if the mammogram results are abnormal?
An abnormal mammogram does not automatically mean that breast cancer has been found. Make sure to follow up with a doctor, who will recommend other tests or exams (for example, MRIs, ultrasounds or biopsies) and may refer you to a breast specialist or surgeon. These additional tests or exams will need to be completed before a definite diagnosis can be made.
Are all breast changes bad?
No. Breast changes may be related to normal variances, hormonal changes, infections or benign lumps. You should see your doctor if you notice breast changes such as lumps, swelling, warmth, redness, dimpling or puckering, itching, rash, sudden nipple discharge or bleeding, persistent pain or changes in size or shape.
Where can I get a mammogram?
Throughout October 2016, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mountain Vista Medical Center is offering free screening mammograms* for all patients who schedule their appointment online at mvmcfreemammo.com (no physician referral is required).
*The screening is not valid for patients with breast implants or pre-existing conditions. This is a screening only and the radiologist may be unavailable to review your images before you leave. Your results will be sent to your physician. Medicare recipients are not eligible to receive a free mammogram under this special. Please consult your Medicare plan provider on how to utilize your mammography benefits.
Mountain Vista Medical Center, part of IASIS Healthcare, is a 178-bed, state-of-the-art hospital located in east Mesa, Arizona, offering comprehensive health care services for a broad range of medical conditions. Staffed by a team of highly skilled health care professionals, Mountain Vista is committed to providing high-quality care in a friendly hospital environment. Mountain Vista is accredited by DNV GL Healthcare, and has earned Gold Seal Accreditations for mammography by the American College of Radiology.