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October 11, 2011 > Mammograms Save Lives

Mammograms Save Lives

National Mammography Day Focuses on Prevention

This year, more than 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Perhaps your sister, wife, mother, or best friend has battled breast cancer, which is considered a woman's disease because it is far more common in women than men.

National Mammography Day on October 21 reminds women that regular mammograms are still the best way to fight breast cancer. The daylong observance is part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month held every October.

"Mammography is still the only breast cancer screening test that has been shown to decrease mortality," said Dr. Mimi Lin, a diagnostic radiologist and director of Mammography at the Women's Imaging Center at Washington Hospital. "Mammograms are still the gold standard. Since their introduction in the 1980s, mammograms have helped to reduce breast cancer deaths by 30 percent."

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of one or both of the breasts. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into the surrounding tissue or spread to other parts of the body.

Mammograms are a low-dose x-ray that can detect changes in the breast tissue. Usually, two x-ray images are taken of each breast. The images make it possible for doctors to detect tumors that can't be felt, Lin explained.

Early Detection

"Mammograms allow us to detect cancer early," Lin said. "We know that cancer caught in the early stages has a very good prognosis, and that late-stage breast cancer has a very poor prognosis. When breast cancer is caught at an earlier stage, women have many more treatment options and can possibly avoid more invasive procedures."

The risk for breast cancer increases as women age, which is why Lin recommends that women begin getting an annual mammogram at age 40. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force created a controversy when it recommended against annual mammograms for women ages 40-49.

"Since then a number of professional groups have supported annual mammograms for women beginning at age 40, including the American College of Radiology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists," Lin said. "At Washington Hospital, we see the highest number of cancers diagnosed on a year-to-year basis in women in their 40s, so I would say annual mammograms are effective for women in that age group."

When looking at national numbers, one invasive cancer is found for every 556 mammograms performed on women in their 40s in the U.S., according to the American College of Radiology.

Accredited Breast Center

The Washington Women's Center offers state-of-the-art digital mammography in a warm and inviting setting, Lin said. The Center has been accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, a nonprofit organization that has been established to identify and recognize breast centers that provide quality care in the United States.

"It's a rigorous credentialing program that required us to demonstrate excellence in a number of areas," Lin explained. "We were one of the first nationally accredited breast centers in Northern California."

In addition to advanced diagnostic services, the Washington Women's Center offers a multidisciplinary team approach to provide women with the best care and treatment options available, she added. At the Center, women also have access to breast cancer information, education, and support.

"The Women's Center is a place where women can feel comfortable and get the services and support they need to stay healthy," Lin said. "We have seen so many advances in the detection and treatment of breast cancer over the last few decades and we want to make sure local women have access to these services."

For more information about the Washington Women's Center and the breast health services offered there, visit

Don't Miss the Think Pink Event this Thursday!

To learn more about breast health and other women's health-related topics, make sure to attend "Think Pink: Quilting Together a Better Life" at the Washington Women's Center this Thursday, October 13.

The special event will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the Tent Atrium at Washington West, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Attendees are invited to wear pink and join in an evening of educational lectures, information booths, health screenings and fun activities.

To register for the Think Pink event or to find out more, go to

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