A mammogram is the top imaging tool healthcare providers have for detecting early signs of breast cancer. When it comes to successful cancer treatment, early detection can make all the difference. The following are some top myths about mammograms and breast cancer and the real facts.
Myth #1: Only women with a history of breast cancer get breast cancer.
While women with a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, most women who have breast cancer have no family history. Statistically, about 85% of those diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
Myth #2: I don’t feel any lumps or have any symptoms, so I don’t need a mammogram.
Some breast cancers may be too tiny to be found by human touch. And not every person who is diagnosed with breast cancer will have symptoms. That’s why annual screening is so important. It’s through early detection that the cancer is more treatable.
Myth #3: You can’t change or lower your risk for breast cancer.
Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy habits like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and limiting alcohol. Also, be vigilant about noticing changes in your breast (like new lumps or skin changes) and check with your doctor if you find these. When the time is right, begin mammograms and other screenings based on your personal history and doctor’s advice.
Myth #4: Women can wait until 50 to have a baseline mammogram.
A baseline mammogram is your first mammogram. If you are at average risk, the recommendation is to have this test done when you are 40. Some mammography screening guidelines suggest that women not initiate screening until age 50. Because breast density plays a role in establishing a breast cancer risk profile, we recommend that patients speak with their healthcare provider to determine the best age for scheduling the baseline test.
Myth #5: All mammograms are painful.
Some women may feel pain during the test, while others may not feel anything. It’s safe to say that everyone experiences mammograms differently. Some factors that may affect what you feel include your breast size, the timing of the exam related to your menstrual cycle, and different positions for the mammogram.
Note that the week after your period is typically the ideal time to schedule your mammogram. On the other hand, during the week before your period, your breasts will be the most tender.
Myth #6: Young women in their 20s and 30s don’t need to worry about their breast health.
Breast cancer, when diagnosed in young women, tends to be more aggressive than it is in older women. That means it’s essential for women in their 20s and 30s to know their breasts as well as the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Depending on their risk factors, younger women may require mammograms earlier and may also require ultrasound or MRI along with mammograms. The bottom line is to get to know what is normal for you so you can identify any abnormalities if they appear.
Myth #7: It doesn’t matter where you go because all mammograms are the same.
Mammograms, and the providers that perform them, can vary greatly. That’s why it’s vital to choose experts who are breast radiologist specialists who read a high volume of screening and diagnostic mammograms. Another important factor is technology. State-of-the-art technology produces better imaging for more accurate detection and diagnosis.