Getting Care, Safely: Screening Mammograms Can Save Your Life

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When life gets busy, our self-care is often sacrificed, pushing things like annual wellness exams and screenings to the bottom of our lists. Now, with the added stress of protecting ourselves and our families, making these important health care appointments may seem like even less of a priority. But breast cancer is still the second-leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S., so staying on top of your annual mammogram could save your life.

A screening mammogram offers the best chance of early detection. Catching breast cancer early means:

  • Therapies like breast conservation therapy will be most effective
  • Treatment can begin early, possibly before the cancer spreads to other parts of your body
  • You’ll have the best possible chance for a cure

During Your Mammogram, We’ll Take Extra Precautions for Your Protection

We’ve enacted new safety measures to ensure you can confidently schedule a mammogram and visit your doctors with confidence and peace of mind. When you visit an AdventHealth facility for a mammogram, you’ll see these precautions in action:

  • Clear, protective barriers at reception desks
  • Separate care areas for people who are sick (this is called patient cohorting)
  • Social distancing measures in waiting areas (floor markers and seat covers)
  • Temperature checks at all facility entrances
  • Universal mask use for health care providers and patients

Understand the Difference Between Diagnostic and Screening Mammograms

Mammography uses X-rays to create a picture of your breast. Screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms use the same equipment and procedures. The difference is in the number of images made.

Diagnostic Mammograms

Diagnostic mammograms are for women who have detected signs of breast cancer such as a lump, nipple pain or discharge. During a diagnostic mammogram, multiple images are taken from different angles to help doctors make the most accurate diagnosis. Because of the number of images taken, you get more radiation. However, all modern digital mammography equipment uses low doses of radiation, and the latest 3D mammography systems need even less.

Evidence continues to show 3D mammograms are better at finding cancer. An October 2018 study that tracked 15,000 women over five years found 3D mammography detected 30 percent more cancers than traditional mammography. “I think 3D mammography is the way of the future,” says AdventHealth Medical Group radiologist, Dr. Leena Kamat.

Our adoption of the most effective technology is one reason women trust us with their health. Part of that peace of mind comes from getting the right answer the first time and avoiding stressful follow-up appointments.

Screening Mammograms

Screening mammograms are a preventative procedure for women who have no signs of breast cancer. A screening mammogram takes fewer images in less time, and you’ll receive less radiation.

Know When High-Risk Breast Cancer Screening Is Needed

If your risk for breast cancer is higher than average, you may have additional screenings that include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound. Although these can be combined with a mammogram, they are not a replacement.

Instead of X-rays, MRI scans use a magnetic field to make images. Although MRI can find breast cancers that mammography misses, it doesn’t find all breast cancers. This type of scan is most effective for women whose health history includes:

  • A BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • An immediate family member — mother, sister or child — with BRCA1 or 2
  • Radiation treatment to the chest between ages 10 and 30

Ultrasound exams use sound waves to make an image. Women who are pregnant or at very high risk for breast cancer, and who can’t have an MRI or be exposed to X-rays, can benefit from an ultrasound. It’s also better at finding breast cancers in women who have dense breast tissue, which is more difficult to diagnose using mammography.

Schedule Your Screening Mammogram Today

If you’ve put off having a mammogram, don’t delay any longer. We’re here to help you get the potentially life-saving screenings you need and keep you protected at every facility.

If you’re between ages 20 and 40, you should have a clinical breast exam by your doctor every three years. If you’re age 40 or older, an annual screening mammogram could be the choice recommended by your doctor.

If you’re not sure when to begin annual screening mammograms, talk to your trusted doctor to develop a customized screening plan for you. A convenient way for you to consult your provider is by using the AdventHealth app, which allows you to schedule virtual appointments to discuss symptoms and treatments. And, if your doctor recommends a screening mammogram, you can schedule your appointment online today.

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