October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we wanted to take some time to focus on one of the most critical exams when it comes to early breast cancer detection: a mammogram. Many questions surrounding this screening technology range from “What is a mammogram?” to “When should I get a mammogram?” To bring awareness of the importance of this annual screening, we wanted to answer some of these frequently asked questions and help you take charge of your health. Mammograms have revolutionized the way we can detect, diagnose, and treat breast cancer. Advancements in this imaging technology have improved the ability to detect breast cancer at the earliest development stages.
At Triangle Physicians for Women, we offer our patients the latest technology and convenience in Women’s Health. For your convenience, we provide state-of-the-art 3D mammograms so that you can stay up to date with your annual screenings.
What is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray image of the breast used to search for early signs of breast cancer. Earlier versions of mammography, known as 2D mammography, consisted of two X-ray images, one taken from the top and a second from the side. The 3D mammogram, however, is a more technologically advanced version that works by capturing multiple slices (images) of the breast from several angles, creating a layered 3D breast image. This version is more accurate in earlier breast cancer detection than any other mammogram, which is why we are proud to offer 3-D mammograms in the office at Triangle Physicians for Women. 3D Mammography is especially beneficial for women with dense breasts, which make up between 40 and 50 percent of women aged 40 to 74 in the U.S. Research has shown that women with high breast density have about a four to five times higher risk of breast cancer than women with low breast density. This makes breast density a stronger breast cancer risk factor than many other factors known to increase risk.
When Should I Get a Mammogram?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should begin receiving annual mammograms at the age of 40 to help detect any early stages of breast cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend that you start to get annual mammograms even before the age of 40. As a general rule of thumb, screening can begin five years before the earliest age of a breast cancer diagnosis in the family. For example, if your mother was diagnosed when she was 35, you should begin screening at 30. Once women reach 55, they may only have to get a mammogram every two years rather than annually.
One benefit unique to Triangle Physicians for Women is the convenience of getting a mammogram. At our practice, we can accommodate a mammogram in the same appointment as your annual GYN appointment. In most cases, we can almost always accommodate a mammogram at your appointment with us, even you haven’t already made an appointment in advance.
What are the Risks and Benefits?
When it comes to annual mammograms, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Mammograms help detect the early stages of breast cancer, which makes it earlier to treat. Mammography is accurate, with screenings accurately identifying 87% of breast cancer. However, there is a risk of missing some breast cancers or showing a potential false-positive. Still, it is estimated that mammograms have prevented more than half a million breast cancer deaths in the United States, making it enough to stay up to date with your annual mammograms.
Talk To An OB/GYN
The team at Triangle Physicians for Women is here for you in all stages of your life. If you have any questions regarding mammograms, please reach out. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Triangle Physicians for Women, you may do so by calling (919) 678-6900 or requesting an appointment electronically under the Contact Us tab.