For women in the U.S., breast cancer is the second deadliest cancer, after lung cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates more than 43,600 women will sadly lose their lives from breast cancer in 2021.
With so much at stake it’s important to separate fact from fiction, so you can make the best possible decisions to protect your health.
Early Detection is Key
As a woman, you know breast self-exams are your first-line defense in finding breast cancer. Next, having a mammogram means you can get treatment earlier for the best chance of survival or even a cure.
Mammograms can help reduce breast cancer deaths in women ages 40 to 74. Even so, myths about mammography’s usefulness, safety and effectiveness persist. To make the best decision for your physical, emotional and spiritual health, here’s what you need to know.
Get the Facts
Myth: Mammograms cause cancer.
Fact: Mammograms use low-dose radiation to produce images of breast tissue.
“While any radiation exposure increases your risk for cancer, mammograms are low-radiation procedures,” explains Thushy Siva, MD, board-certified general surgeon. “You’ll get slightly more radiation than from a chest X-ray, but much less than from a CT scan. And you’ll get much less radiation from digital 3D mammography than from either film or 2D mammography.” 3D mammography also reduces false positives and do-over mammograms. They can detect cancers too small to feel by hand.
Myth: With no symptoms and no family history of breast cancer, I don’t need a mammogram.
Fact: A mammogram can save your life.
“Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean you can’t have breast cancer,” says Dr. Siva. Symptoms can be a lump or swelling, or skin changes. Sometimes breast cancer has no symptoms. While it’s true that your risk increases if a woman in your immediate family has breast cancer, any woman at any age can develop breast cancer. Your risk also increases if you smoke or are overweight.
If you’re nearing 40, plan to have annual screening mammograms into your 70s. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, get a breast exam from your doctor every 3 years. If you’re around 30 and breast or ovarian cancer runs in your family, ask your doctor about a mammogram.
Myth: Mammograms are painful.
Fact: Mammograms can be uncomfortable, but they shouldn’t be painful.
Breast compression is necessary to get the best images. Although everyone has a different pain threshold, a mammogram should not be painful unless your breasts are already tender. If you do feel pain, let the imaging technologist know and he or she can help.
Talk to Your Doctor
The benefits of detecting breast cancer are far greater than the low dose of mammogram radiation. Although mammograms are perfectly safe for most women, talk with your gynecologist to make sure it’s right for you. If you’re a woman age 40 to 74, regular screening mammograms are crucial to protect your health and well-being.
Schedule Your Mammogram Appointment
AdventHealth provides advanced breast cancer diagnosis and treatment tailored to you. Get in touch with a Health Navigator to schedule your appointment. Mammograms save lives — and that’s a fact.