According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Screening mammography is the only method proven to reduce deaths due to breast cancer by detecting breast cancer early. Since mammograms were introduced in the U.S. in the 1980’s, there have been 30 percent fewer deaths from breast cancer among women.

A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breasts that makes it possible to detect lumps or abnormal growths that may not be felt during a self-examination. The MemorialCare Breast Center at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial offers 3-D mammography (Tomosynthesis), the latest technology available in breast imaging. Tomosynthesis is a more effective tool for detecting breast cancer compared to conventional 2-D mammography since the breast can be viewed in a cross sectional manner instead of the single projection that traditional 2-D mammography provides.

Annual mammograms save lives. Experts recommend that women age 40 and over have annual mammograms. In the past controversy existed about whether or not women should get mammograms between the ages of 40 and 50. However, studies have shown that breast cancer tends to be more aggressive in women in this age group so it is especially important for women to get their annual mammograms starting at age 40.

Major risk factors of breast cancer include age, genetics, and breast density. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. After age 50, the probability of developing breast cancer within 10 years is 1 in 43. Women who have a close relative who has had breast cancer are also at increased risk; about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases result from gene mutations that are inherited. Women with dense breast tissue as seen by mammography, have a significantly increased risk compared to those without dense breasts.

However, women without any risk factors for breast cancer still should get annual mammograms because the great majority of breast cancer patients have no risk factors at all. Approximately 75 percent of patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no risk factors, making it that much more important that every woman have a screening mammogram each year.

Getting a high-quality screening mammogram and having a clinical breast exam on a regular basis are the most effective ways to detect breast cancer early. Early detection of breast cancer means that treatment can be less extensive and prognosis is better. Without regular mammograms, tumors can go undetected allowing a breast cancer to grow and possibly spread to other parts of the body. Since not all breast cancers are visible by mammography, it is very important to have annual clinical breast exams by a health care provider and to notify him/her of any changes detected between exams.

Screening mammography saves lives, and it’s one of the easiest steps women can take to be as healthy as possible and catch a possible breast cancer early.

The MemorialCare Breast Center at Long Beach Memorial has been named a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology and is dedicated to the early detection and accurate, timely diagnosis of breast cancer. All exams are read by fellowship-trained, sub-specialized female breast radiologists.

For more information or to schedule your annual mammogram, call (877) 696-3622.