She is your Mother, Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Best Friend…..
October is designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is a month for all of us to come together, bolster our advocacy for women’s health, and talk about the benefits of early screening as early detection saves lives! We must also support those that are currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, admire those that have conquered it, and remember those have that died from the disease.
According to the National Cancer Institute, clinical trials show that screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer in women ages 40 to 74. Early detection means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease and possibly before it spreads. (NCI)
Dr. Longbotham explains that detecting breast cancer in the earliest of stages when the cancer is small, barely visible on a mammogram and prior to the disease spreading or forming a large tumor, greatly increases the rate of survival. This is accomplished when treatment is sought after detected and diagnosed.
Education is an important part of the process and at HMI we make sure that our patients understand the studies they are having performed. Here are some commonly asked questions regarding imaging studies.
Diagnostic Mammogram vs. Screening Mammogram
While diagnostic and screening mammograms are performed on the same type of machine, diagnostic mammograms take a bit longer to perform as more images are taken with multiple angles. Sometimes the doctor orders magnified views if there is an area of suspicion, which means more images.
Dr. Longbotham says, “A routine screening is ordered when there are no symptoms present, this allows your doctor to follow your baseline and each year reevaluate to ensure nothing has changed. With a diagnostic mammogram, this study is ordered when there are symptoms like pain in the breast, a palpable lump etc. This study is used for evaluation and depending on the results additional imaging or test may be ordered.”
Does a Mammogram Hurt?
Everyone has a different experience when getting a mammogram. Some patients describe pressure or it being uncomfortable, while others say they feel no discomfort at all. A few things that can affect how a patient feels during a mammogram is: size and shape of your breast, where you are in your menstrual cycle, and the experience of the technologist.
Pete Power, clinical director at The Women’ Center HMI, says that with her years of experience as a mammography technologist, patients who experience discomfort are typically stressed about the imaging exam. “It makes a big difference when the patient can relax and breathe. As a technologist, we try and help our patients relax and put them at ease. When the muscles relax around the breast it makes it easier to perform the exam and puts less stress on the patient.”
I asked Dr. Longbotham if she had any suggestions for patients with a history of experiencing discomfort during a mammogram or for a patient who may be anxious prior to their first mammo. She said, “it is best to avoid caffeine the day of your exam and schedule your mammogram about a week after your menstrual cycle as this can help with any discomfort.
However, experiencing discomfort during your mammogram can be normal. Always remember to communicate with the technologist, so they are aware and can help you through the imaging exam.”
Does Insurance Pay for Screening Mammograms?
The good news is that most insurance plans, including Medicare, cover screening mammograms. If you have a financial need, it is advisable to discuss this with your doctor as there are options available to assist you.
How Can We Make a Difference?
· Spread the word to your community
· Talk about the benefits of screening mammograms
· Start a discussion with your mother, daughter, aunt, best friend, and encourage them to go in for their annual screening.
· Create a women’s group
· Encourage women to take control of their health and be proactive with early detection
· Promote conversations with referring physicians about screening options
· Encourage regular breast self-exams
How to conduct a Breast Self-Exam:
A breast self-exam can be performed lying down, in the shower or standing up facing a mirror
1. Stand in front of the mirror with your arms over your head
2. Look for puckers, dimples or redness on the skin
3. Use three or four fingers on your left hand to explore the right breast, beginning on the outer edge. Move your fingers in a small circular motion or up and down around the breast to feel for any changes. Repeat this step with the left breast.
4. With one arm raised, check under your arm for any lumps. Repeat on opposite side.
5. Gently squeeze each nipple to check for discharge.
6. Should you have any abnormal findings or have questions, contact your doctor for a full examination.
The Women’s Center at HMI is a fully accredited facility with the American College of Radiology (ACR) in all breast imaging modalities.
Our team of highly trained professionals at The Women’s Center pride themselves on delivering patient care that focuses on each individual patient. We treat our patients like family with empathy and kindness, acknowledging that even routine imaging can be stressful. We are here to answer any questions, explain the process, and support our patients through the imaging study or procedure.
The Women’s Center features state-of-the-art equipment with exceptional patient care.
2D and 3D Mammograms
Bone Density Scans
Nuclear Medicine Injections
Female Radiologists on site
Online access to reports and images
If you need a mammogram or have imaging needs, our team is available to answer any questions you may have, including, assisting you in understanding your health benefits. For more information you can visit our website.