Parenting & Pregnancy: Mammograms can save your life, doctors say

Women are also advised to continue their monthly self-breast exams to check for any changes.

Posted: Oct 7, 2021 10:14 AM
Updated: Oct 8, 2021 10:23 AM

EUGENE, Ore. – Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women around the world.

While a recent study found that mammogram rates are rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, doctors in our area want to remind women why it’s so important to get screened during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In this month’s Parenting & Pregnancy – sponsored by Women’s Care – KEZI 9 News Anchor Renee McCullough shares how just a few minutes out of your day could save your life.

About 42,000 women die every year from breast cancer in the United States, which is why it’s so important to find it early when it’s easier to treat.

That’s why doctors recommend your first mammogram when you’re 40.

“They’re important because it’s often the first time we spot a lump or abnormality in a breast. It’s much more sensitive and accurate than just doing a clinical breast exam or a self-breast exam, so we can find the lump much smaller and therefore start treatment much earlier if needed,” said Dr. Heather York with Women’s Care.

York said while the test can be a little awkward, it’s fairly quick.

“It’s maybe 10 or 15 minutes in the exam room. We get two views of each breast so it is a bit of an awkward exam based on what it is. You have to position your neck and your arms in a funny position, but we compress the breast between the plates in two directions,” York said.

Women’s Care uses a 3D machine so radiologists can get a more accurate look at any abnormal lumps or calcifications. And they compare the latest images to previous exams to look for changes.

“If you have an abnormal mammogram, the next step would be to do a diagnostic mammogram, which is another mammogram just looking at that specific area of abnormality in the breast,” York said.

While annual screenings are important, York said women also need to continue to do self-breast exams once a month so they know what normal breast tissue feels like and to watch for any new lumps or changes.

“The best time to do it is right after having a menstrual period because the hormone levels are lowest and breast tissue is less dense and less tender,” York said.

For those nervous about their first mammogram, York said don’t put it off.

“I always tell them it’s not a big deal. We all survive it,” York said.

Those 15 minutes in the exam room could save your life. While some women don’t have any symptoms, if you have pain in your breast, a new lump or changes in the shape or size of your breast, you should contact your doctor.

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