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October 15, 2008 > Have You Had a Mammogram Lately?

Have You Had a Mammogram Lately?

With National Mammography Day coming up on Friday, October 17, now is the perfect time for scheduling your regular mammography appointment.

"Early detection is a critical factor in surviving breast cancer, and mammography is still the most widely available and best screening test for detecting breast cancer," says Dr. Mimi Lin, a radiologist and Director of Mammography at Washington Hospital. "Mammography can detect tiny tumors - including pre-cancerous growths that are confined to the milk ducts called ductal carcinoma in situ - long before they can be felt."

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast, using very low-dose radiation. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women have yearly mammography screening beginning at age 40. "Women with a strong family history of breast cancer may benefit from starting screenings earlier," Dr. Lin says. "Women who have a sister or mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer should be screened when they reach an age that is 10 years younger than the age of the relative at the time of diagnosis. For example, if your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40, you should start having annual screening mammography at age 30."

In addition to a family history of breast cancer, other risk factors include being female, advanced age, no pregnancies or having her first child after age 35, early onset of menstruation and late menopause.

Annual screening mammography involves taking two pictures of each breast and is for women who have no specific symptoms referable to the breast. Diagnostic mammography is done whenever needed for women who have detected a lump, have discharge from the nipple or have other concerns specific to the breasts. Diagnostic mammography often includes extra images, perhaps including magnification so the area of concern can be examined more closely. Women who have breast implants also require additional because the implants can block the view of breast tissue.

"The accuracy of today's mammograms is very high," Dr. Lin says. "At the Washington Hospital Women's Center, our digital mammography equipment provides a clearer picture of the breast, especially for women with dense breast tissue."

A key factor in ensuring the accuracy of mammograms is having them evaluated by a radiologist who is board certified and experienced in mammography. Working at Washington Hospital since 1993, Dr. Lin has lots of experience in reading mammograms, as do her colleagues there. "The radiologists in our group are all board certified by the American College of Radiology and all have years of experience in analyzing mammograms," she says. "We also do targeted breast ultrasounds for diagnostic evaluations and breast MRIs for women who are considered at high risk for developing breast cancer."

The Women's Center also performs image-guided biopsies of breast lesions, using either stereotactic mammography, ultrasound or MRI imaging. These procedures are done under local anesthesia and take approximately an hour.

While women may experience some mild discomfort during a mammogram, the procedure lasts only a few minutes. "Mammography is scientifically proven to decrease the mortality associated with breast cancer," Dr. Lin notes. "The earlier a cancer is found, the better the prognosis. There are only a few seconds of compression of each breast. Mammography is an easy thing to do, and it could be life-saving."

Why don't you schedule that mammography exam today?

For more information about mammograms or to schedule your mammography screening at the Women's Center at Washington Hospital, call (510) 791-3410.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

To coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities, the Washington Women's Center will host a Breast Cancer Prevention lecture on Thursday, October 16, from Noon to 1 p.m. Dr. David Cheng, a Washington Hospital oncologist will discuss some of the risk factors for breast cancer and talk about the role of hormone therapy in breast cancer. Dr. Cheng will also discuss ways women who have had breast cancer in the past can prevent a reoccurrence. The free lecture will take place at the Washington Women's Center Conference Room located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. Seating is limited. Call (800) 963-7070 to register.

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