October 17, 2006 > Put Your Health First on Mammography Day
Put Your Health First on Mammography Day
by Washington Hospital
Although Halloween festivities get most of the attention around this time of year, October 20 could mark the most life-saving event of the month. National Mammography Day is Friday, October 20, and on this day, women are encouraged to make an appointment for a screening mammogram for the early detection of breast cancer.
Screening mammograms help find breast cancer at the earliest stages when it is more treatable. A mammogram is a safe, effective and non-invasive method to detect a cancerous growth in the breast.
“Screening mammography is the only test proven to increase the survival rate of breast cancer patients,” says Dr. Mimi Lin, radiologist and director of mammography at Washington Hospital.
During a mammogram, two X-ray pictures of each breast are taken. The pictures are then reviewed by at least one radiologist to see if there are signs of suspicious growth. Patients need to schedule their own screening mammograms once a year to proactively manage their health. Screening mammograms are for patients without specific findings or problems referable to the breasts.
In order for women to give themselves the best chance of detecting and fighting breast cancer, the American College of Radiology recommends all women have a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40. After age 50, women should have a screening mammogram once a year. Between the ages of 40 and 50, you may have a yearly mammogram or a mammogram once every two years, depending on your personal and family history. Talk to your doctor about the best mammogram plan for you.
Dr. Lin cites the risk factors for breast cancer:
- Having a female relative (mother, sisters, aunts and first cousins) on the maternal side of the family who had breast cancer before menopause
- Being Caucasian
- Being over 50
- Women who were older when they had their first child
In addition to mammograms, women of all ages should have an annual clinical breast exam by an experienced health care professional and do a monthly breast self exam. The annual screening mammogram is important to find potentially cancerous lumps when they are still too small for the patient to find in a self-exam.
Sometimes, a physician will order a diagnostic mammogram when a doctor or patient has found a mass in the breast during a clinical exam or a self-exam. A mammogram can help determine whether the mass is cancerous or not. Some masses found in the breast are non-cancerous, such as benign cysts, calcium flecks, focal asymmetric normal fibroglandular tissue, fibroadenomas and lymph nodes.
The Mammography Department at Washington Hospital offers digital mammography services with state-of-the-art equipment for detecting cancer. The process is the same as the traditional, film mammograms in that the breast is compressed for several seconds in order to record the clearest image possible. Digital mammography exposes the patient to slightly less radiation and produces images immediately so the process is quicker. Digital and traditional film screen mammography are analogous to digital and traditional photography. With digital mammography, occasionally a specific portion of the picture can be isolated and enlarged to further examine irregularities. More commonly, additional images, either X-rays or ultrasound, will be required to further evaluate an area of interest.
“As scary as being called back for additional images may be, every patient should be comforted in knowing that the vast majority of such abnormalities are found to be benign, non-cancerous,” Lin says.
Washington Hospital’s Digital Mammography Services in the Mammography Department are located at 2500 Mowry Ave., Fremont. Mammogram appointments require a physician’s order. Call (510) 791-3410 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Please clarify whether you are scheduling an annual screening mammogram or a diagnostic mammogram.
Washington Hospital also offers the Community Mammogram Program for women and men ages 40 to 70 who qualify as eligible to receive free mammograms for detection of breast cancer. Some individuals ages 30 to 40 are also considered candidates for the program if they are asymptomatic and considered at high risk for breast cancer. The Medicare program defines the determination of “high risk.” The program is designed to serve those who have no health insurance and live within the boundaries of Washington Township Health Care District. For more information about the Washington Hospital Community Mammogram Program, contact Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center at (510) 471-5880 or Tri-City Health Center at (510) 770-8133.