It might be tempting to procrastinate when it comes to your annual mammogram screening, especially if you don’t currently have any breast health concerns or unusual symptoms.
But as the second deadliest cancer in the U.S., early detection of breast cancer is critical. This 30-minute screening could mean the difference between catching cancer when it's the most treatable and a more challenging battle down the road.
“A mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer,” says Rachel Raphael, MD, an AdventHealth general surgeon. “Decades of research show that women who get mammograms regularly are more likely to get an early diagnosis of breast cancer, which reduces the need for more aggressive treatments like surgery and chemotherapy and, most importantly, increases their chances of recovery,” Dr. Raphael explains.
Despite the facts, many women still decide against receiving this potentially lifesaving screening. And many misconceptions about mammograms may be contributing to unnecessary confusion and fear.
We want to protect your health and help you live your best life. It's our hope that every woman gets her annual mammogram confidently, without any of these myths getting in the way. Read on to learn the truth about the screening experience.
1. A mammogram takes too long; I don’t have time.
Digital mammography has become very efficient: you’re typically in and out of a screening mammogram in less than 30 minutes. Some locations offer weekend and after-hours appointments, and many can schedule a same- or next-day appointment for your convenience. Consider fitting this important appointment into your lunch break or after work.
2. Mammograms cost too much.
Many insurance companies cover 100% of the cost of a screening mammogram if you meet the criteria. Call your insurance provider to see what coverage your policy offers. Low-cost or fully funded mammograms are also offered through national programs, community organizations and our AdventHealth Foundation.
3. Mammograms are painful.
Mammograms can be uncomfortable but should not be painful. With the transition to digital mammography, the level of discomfort you experience should be much less due to the new design of the compression paddles. The paddles flex with your body, applying pressure only where needed. Also, digital exams are quicker, with a shorter compression time. To help ensure your comfort, avoid scheduling your mammogram the week before the start of your menstrual cycle when your breasts tend to be more tender.
4. I’m afraid the scan will find something.
Most breast lumps are not cancerous. But you should still see a doctor immediately if you discover a lump or change in your breasts. Computer-aided detection (CAD) helps our specially trained radiologists read the images, make recommendations for further studies and talk with referring physicians.
If you do receive a call about your mammogram, know that this happens to many women and often just means that further testing should be done to examine a possible area of concern. In fact, most mammogram findings end up being benign (non-cancerous).
If breast cancer is detected, an early diagnosis can lead to more seamless and effective treatment, and our breast care clinicians will provide you with a continual source of support throughout the entire process.
5. The radiation from a mammogram can cause cancer.
Mammograms are extremely safe. Digital mammography produces clear and precise exam images with the lowest radiation dose required. The amount of radiation from one mammogram per year is the same amount you would get from a cross-country flight.
6. Mammograms are only for older women.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40 and older should get a yearly screening mammogram for as long as they’re in good health. However, if you have a family history of cancer, any new breast problem or other high-risk factors, it may be recommended to start getting regular screenings at an earlier age. It's important to discuss your personal screening schedule with your doctor.
“If you have a more complicated family or medical history, your doctor might refer you to a breast surgeon or specialist who can help address your breast health concerns, assess your risk, run genetic tests and work with you to map out a personalized screening or prevention plan,” shares Dr. Raphael.
Be Proactive About Prevention
We’re here to empower you to protect your long-term well-being. Getting the preventive care you need is important in staying healthy for years to come.
If you still have questions and concerns, our dedicated health care providers can help put your mind at ease. Talk to your primary care provider or OB/GYN about when you should begin getting screening mammograms, or if you’re due for your next one, schedule your mammogram today.