What is the importance of early detection? It has been shown to save lives and increase treatment options. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 97 percent among those whose cancer has not spread beyond the breast at diagnosis.
What is a mammogram? It is a low-dose X-ray procedure enabling doctors to see the internal structure of the breast and possibly detect cancers that cannot be felt.
When should women have mammograms? Women should begin having annual mammograms at age 40 and continue for as long as they are in good health. Anyone with serious health problems or a short life expectancy should evaluate ongoing early-detection testing with a doctor.
Do mammograms detect all breast cancers? They are considered the gold standard in breast cancer detection, but they fail to detect about 10 to 20 percent of cancers.
How should you prepare for a mammogram?
If you have sensitive breasts and are still menstruating, try to avoid having the test during the week before your period.
Do not wear deodorant, powder or cream under your arms; they may interfere with the quality of the mammogram.
Bring a list of the places and dates of other mammograms, biopsies and other breast treatments you have had.
Is mammography the only technology available to screen for breast cancer? Other techniques are being studied, including MRI, positron emission tomography and ultrasound. Some of these are used to follow up if a patient has suspicious findings from a physical exam or a mammogram.
What should women do other than get mammograms? Women are advised to get clinical breast exams as part of a regular health exam, about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year for women 40 or older. If you are at increased risk, talk with your doctor about starting mammography earlier, having additional tests or having more frequent exams.
Are breast cancer screenings covered by insurance? Since September 2010, insurers have been barred from levying out-of-pocket costs on patients receiving mammograms and colonoscopies. Medicare provides coverage for annual screening mammography for women beneficiaries 40 or older. Unlike other Medicare benefits, the deductible is waived for mammography. Idahos Womens Health Check offers free breast and cervical cancer screening to women who qualify. Learn more at www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov (search for Womens Health Check).
What happens if a mammogram is abnormal? There are many types of procedures and tests a woman may undergo to find out whether an abnormal area of a mammogram is cancer:
Physical exam. A doctor checks for a lump.
Diagnostic mammogram. This procedure magnifies the breast image to see the area better.
Ultrasound. Sound waves are used to locate fluid-filled cysts.
Needle biopsy. A long needle is used to remove fluid, cells from the abnormal spot to test for cancer; local anesthesia is used.
Surgical biopsy. During this procedure, some or all of the abnormal area is removed. The tissue is then tested for cancer. Local or general anesthesia is used. This procedure will leave a scar.