“In the U.S., breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women,” says HMG’s Director of Radiology Samantha Sizemore. “Early detection saves lives by improving the chances that breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and treated successfully.”
Mammograms can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. In such instances, the mammogram is called a “screening mammogram” and usually involves two X-rays of each breast.“Mammograms are incredibly helpful because they make it possible to detect tumors that are too small to be felt,” says Sizemore. “They also find micro-calcifications [tiny deposits of calcium] that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.”
Another type of mammogram is the “diagnostic mammogram.” These may be used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of breast cancer has been located. Diagnostic mammograms generally involve more X-rays in order to obtain more specialized views of the breast from multiple angles.
“Checking your own breasts monthly, as well as getting a high-quality screening mammogram and having a clinical breast exam on a regular basis, are the most effective ways to detect breast cancer as early as possible,” said Renda Knapp, MD, FACOG, who practices at Seasons at Kingsport. “If a woman notices any unusual changes in her breasts, she should contact her health-care provider. Being proactive is your best line of defense.”
To schedule an annual mammogram, call (423) 857-2800 in Kingsport or (423) 990-2440 in Bristol.
Who should have a mammogram?
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends the following preventative measures: Women 40 and older should have a mammogram every one to two years; women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer should talk with their health-care providers about whether to have mammograms before 40 and how often to have them.
What are the factors that place a woman at increased risk of breast cancer?
While the risk of breast cancer increases gradually with age, the risk of developing breast cancer is not the same for all women. Studies are showing that certain factors tend to increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.
These factors are:
• A personal history of breast cancer. Women who have had it once, are more likely to develop a second breast cancer.
• Family history. A woman with a family history of breast cancer, especially if the disease was diagnosed before the age of 50, has a greater risk of developing breast cancer.
• Reproductive and menstrual history. Women who began having menstrual periods before the age of 12 or who went through menopause after 55 are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Additionally, women who had their first children after the age of 30 or who never have had a child are also at increased risk.
• Long-term use of menopausal hormone therapy. Women who use a combination of estrogen-progestin menopausal hormone therapy for more than five years have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
• Women with dense breast tissue. Because breast cancers tend to develop in the dense tissue of the breast, older women whose mammograms show more dense tissue have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Additionally, abnormalities in dense breast can be more difficult to detect on a mammogram.
• Body weight. Studies have found that the chance of getting breast cancer after menopause is higher in women who are overweight or obese.
• Alcohol. Studies indicate that the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of developing breast cancer.