Digital mammography can detect early-stage breast cancer

If you're a woman consider the many reasons why you should have a mammogram every year.

Get the Facts

40 is the age at which women should start getting annual mammograms

37% reduction in breast cancer deaths since mammography screening became widespread in 1990

1 in 6 breast cancers occur in women ages 40–49

3 of 4 women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease

Concerned about breast cancer?

Throughout the year and especially during October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, our hospital strives to make sure women know how important it is to have regular mammograms or x-rays of the breasts.

Doctors know that screenings for breast cancer save thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women took advantage of these tests.

While progress has been made across the board, including less invasive surgeries, genetic testing and more advanced diagnostic technology, an estimated 40,000 women are expected to die from breast cancer this year.

That means breast cancer is still one of the top killers of women in the United States, more than accidents, pneumonia or the flu. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S., other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

That's the bad news. But there's good news as well. Right now there are about two and a half million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

Breast cancer death rates are going down. This is the result of advances in treatment and more women having mammograms which can find the cancer during its earliest, most curable stages.

The chance of a woman having breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8 while the chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. About 182,460 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

Lowering the Risk

Unlike colorectal cancer, which can be prevented via the removal of polyps during a colonoscopy, there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But there are steps women can take that might reduce their risk of breast cancer, or at least help them find it in its earliest, most curable stages. These steps include:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Have an annual mammogram
  • Women who breast-feed their children for several months or do not use post-menopausal hormone therapy (PHT) may also reduce their breast cancer risk.
  • Most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer save thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests.

How to prepare for the day of your exam

  • Bring prior mammogram images: 

If you are changing facilities, make sure you bring any previous mammogram results with you from your old facility to the new one. This is so the radiologist can compare your old results with the new images to look for any changes.

  • Don’t use deodorant: 

You should avoid using any deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams, and perfumes under your arms or around your breasts since they contain metallic particles that could be visible on the mammogram and confuse your results.

  • When you arrive at the mammogram testing facility, you will likely be asked to remove all of your jewelry and clothing from the waist up and then will be given a gown to put on.

During the procedure, you will stand in front of an X-ray machine that is specifically designed for mammography. The mammographer will place one of your breasts on a platform that will raise or lower to match your height. You will have to position your head, arms, and torso to allow the best unobstructed view of your breast. Then, your breast will gradually be pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate in order to spread out the breast tissue and allow the X-rays to penetrate through the breast tissue. You will be asked to stand still and hold your breath during this time. The pressure being applied should not hurt you, but it may be uncomfortable. This compression is necessary to provide the best image for the radiologist.  The procedure will then be repeated for the other breast. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. You can usually expect to receive your results within a few days.