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.
As the top recommended way to detect breast cancer, decades of research shows that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer detected early, which reduces the need for more aggressive treatments like surgery and chemotherapy, and offers a greater probability of being cured.
Despite the facts, many women still decide against receiving this potentially life-saving screening. And many misconceptions about mammograms may be contributing to unnecessary confusion and fear.
“I find that some women have concerns about mammograms because their mom or another relative had a bad experience years ago,” explains AdventHealth Winter Garden primary care provider Amanda Nadeau, DO. “But today’s screenings are far more advanced, efficient and comfortable than they were in the past. I always try to reassure patients and explain that this kind of preventive screening is too important not to experience for themselves.”
“More often than not our patients leave surprised at how quick the mammogram was,” says AdventHealth Imaging Center Winter Garden practice manager Jim Laack. “If safety is your hesitation, know that we take it very seriously. We have plenty of fresh masks for all patients and staff. We carefully clean and sanitize our waiting and exam rooms around the clock.”
We want to protect your health and help you live your best life. It's our hope that every woman feels inspired to get their annual mammogram 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 on your drive home from 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 the 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 and the compression time is less. Avoid scheduling your mammogram the week leading up to the start of your menstrual cycle when your breasts tend to be more tender.
4. I’m afraid the scan will find something.
Eight out of ten 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 we need to request more images, don’t panic,” says AdventHealth Imaging Center Winter Garden radiologist Brian Reeves, DO. “It is not a diagnosis of breast cancer, it just means we need additional information. This might require the use of other diagnostic tools, like an MRI or ultrasound.”
If breast cancer is detected, finding it early 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 uses the lowest radiation dose required to produce clear and precise exam images.
“Occasionally a patient will have the misconception that there is a lot of radiation risk with a mammogram,” says Dr. Reeves. “It’s a very small amount of radiation. There is far more risk in avoiding your mammogram altogether, which may result in delayed treatment.”
The amount of radiation from one mammogram per year is the same amount you would get from taking a cross-country flight.
6. Mammograms are only for older women.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older should get a yearly screening mammogram for as long as a woman is 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 screening at an earlier age. It's important to discuss your personal screening schedule with your doctor.
“I consider all the latest guidelines when recommending screenings like mammograms, but also place a lot of importance on family history,” says Dr. Nadeau. “Having a first-degree relative with breast cancer almost doubles your risk. In that case, you would likely need to get screened at an earlier age and more frequently than someone with no family history.”
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.
7. I should delay my appointment because of COVID-19.
“Breast cancer going undetected for months is riskier for your long-term health than the current risk of COVID-19,” explains Dr. Reeves. “We understand that a mammogram may not feel essential if you aren’t having any symptoms, but it’s critical to keep your routine screening appointments. A mammogram can identify cancer long before a lump or other symptom appears.”
Your health and safety are our priority. We’re taking several precautions in our Winter Garden imaging center to protect you when you’re here, including universal mask use, temperature checks, enhanced cleaning and sanitation and enforced social distancing.
Be Proactive About Prevention
We’re here to empower you to protect your long-term well-being. Getting the preventive care you need — right here in your neighborhood — is an important step on the journey to whole health.
“We are committed to making your appointment smooth and stress-free,” says Laack. “We focus on the safety and cleanliness of our imaging center so you can focus on your health.”
If you still have questions and concerns, we can help put your mind at ease. Call us to schedule your mammogram in Winter Garden today at 407-614-0565 or visit ScheduleYourMammo.com.