It’s that time of year again. Time to make another mammogram appointment. You may be dragging your feet because it seems like too much of an inconvenience, but mammograms are essential in the fight against breast cancer. Annual screening mammograms reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women over the age of 40.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. There are two different types of mammographic exams:
- Screening mammograms are for women who have no symptoms.
- Diagnostic mammograms are used to evaluate a particular symptom such as a palpable lump, nipple discharge or focal pain. Follow up exams for a prior finding also are in this category.
Who needs a mammogram?
We recommend that women begin having yearly mammograms at the age of 40. Depending on your family history, your physician may recommend a baseline mammogram at an earlier age.
Who performs my mammogram?
At the MemorialCare Breast Center at Long Beach Medical Center, a certified, specialty trained mammography technologist performs each exam.
What happens to my mammogram after I leave?
Since we only use digital mammography, your images are digitized to a computer and stored in our system. They can be put on a CD or film, if you or your physician requests them.
Who looks at my mammogram?
At the MemorialCare Breast Center, mammograms are read by fellowship-trained breast radiologists on high-definition screens. All of the radiologists are fellowship-trained subspecialists in breast imaging with more than 50 combined years of experience in their field.
What happens if something is found on my mammogram?
If something is found on your mammogram you will receive a phone call from a Breast Center nurse, asking you to return for additional imaging. You also will receive a letter indicating that additional imaging is required.
What happens if there is no abnormality on my mammogram?
You will receive a letter explaining your results and recommending to schedule another mammogram when due.
Can I only come at the same time every year?
Most women come for their screening mammogram at the same time each year because it is easier to remember year-to-year. If you notice something during a self-breast exam, we highly encourage you to go to your primary care physician for a clinical breast exam. Your physician will be able to determine if you need to be seen here for a diagnostic exam. A lump or focal problem in your breast, no matter how small, is not something to ignore.
How do I do a self-exam at home?
There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts, as long as you examine the entire area of your breast tissue – including from your collarbone down, and under your armpits and nipples – well enough to notice any changes. The best time to perform a breast self-exam is after your menstrual cycle ends each month, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. If you no longer have your menstrual cycle, choose a day that’s easy to remember for your self-exam.
Breast cancer does not discriminate. Some women are genetically predisposed to the disease, while others have no risk factors other than being female. It is important to understand that the great majority of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no risk factors and no family history of the disease. By performing monthly self-exams and getting regular clinical breast exams and mammograms, you can increase the likelihood that if breast cancer is diagnosed, it is found early and is curable. Know your body and listen to it. Seek care if you think you are at risk or might have breast cancer. Own your health and schedule your yearly mammogram.