Monday Medical: Mammogram myths busted
Annual screening mammograms are recommended for women beginning at age 40.
Request your appointment at the Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center at info.yvmc.org/remember, or call 970-871-2399.
Editor’s note: This article is the first in a three-part series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
If you’ve been putting off getting an annual mammogram, you might want to think again: every year, mammograms help detect cancers earlier, while they’re easier to treat.
Below, Dr. Terese I. Kaske, breast radiologist and medical director of Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center, dispels a few of the myths that prevent women from making their screening appointments.
Myth: I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, so don’t need to worry about getting a mammogram.
Fact: For the majority of women who get breast cancer, there is no family history of the disease.
“Seventy-five percent of the women that we diagnose with breast cancer have no family history,” Kaske said. “Just because you don’t have a family history doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be screened.
“In the breast imaging community, we all feel strongly that continuing with yearly mammography gives us the best chance of finding early, curable breast cancer.”
Myth: Forty is too young to start getting an annual mammogram.
Fact: The American College of Radiology recommends starting mammograms at age 40, as does Kaske. Higher-risk women may start screenings at an earlier age.
“Mammography has been extremely well-researched and evaluated,” Kaske said. “Studies show that it decreases the mortality from breast cancer by 30 to 40 percent.”
Myth: A mammogram exposes me to too much radiation.
Fact: Mammograms use a very small amount of radiation.
“The radiation dose is very low,” Kaske said. “Having a mammogram exposes you to about half of the dose you get from living in Colorado for a year. And we think the benefits far outweigh the risks.”
Myth: I can’t afford a mammogram.
Fact: Most insurance plans cover yearly mammograms, but even without insurance, there are options to receive financial assistance for mammograms. Locally, events such as the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Project’s Bust of Steamboat help raise funds to support needs.
Women shouldn’t hesitate to call the Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center to ask about financial assistance options, said Frannie Johnson, breast health nurse navigator.
“Financial assistance is available,” Johnson said. “You’re not taking funds away from someone else when you ask to have your mammogram covered.”
Myth: Mammograms are painful.
Fact: Mammograms should feel like a tight squeeze, nothing more.
“Mammograms should not be painful,” Kaske said. “Our technologists are very well-trained in techniques, and patients do have control, so that if it starts to feel too tight or pinchy, the technologist will stop and reposition.
“But the tight squeeze is important. It gives us better detail, and it allows us to use less radiation.”
Myth: I don’t have time to get a mammogram.
Fact: With busy schedules at work and home, finding time to get a mammogram can be a challenge. At the Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center, the value of your time is recognized, and the team strives to keep mammogram appointments to less than an hour; sometimes, a patient is in and out much faster.
Myth: I’m afraid that something will be found during my screening.
Fact: For the vast majority of women, screening mammograms show nothing suspicious and help provide peace of mind.
“Most of the time, we don’t find anything,” Kaske said. “We hope we never find anything, but if we do, we want to find it small. Then, the treatment is less aggressive, less expensive — all positives.”
For more information, contact the Breast Health Nurse Navigator at 970-875-2623.
Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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