As October winds down and the Breast Cancer Awareness Month pink ribbons fade into Thanksgiving turkeys and apple pies, I want to leave you with this important statement that you remember year round: An annual mammogram can save a woman’s life, I know because it saved mine.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in America. Breast cancer is also the most curable cancer when diagnosed in its earliest stage.
Some breast cancers are detected through a breast self-exam, but mammography is the single most effective method for detecting breast changes that may be cancer long before physical symptoms can be seen or felt. This is why mammography is so important.
Every now and then women tell me they avoid mammograms because they fear the radiation to the breasts might do them more harm than good. Let me allay this fear. The FDA has enforced strict guidelines to ensure mammogram equipment is safe and uses the lowest dose of radiation possible. In fact, modern mammogram equipment, featuring digital imaging, uses very low levels of radiation. The radiation dose associated with digital mammography is, on average, 22% lower than that of conventional film mammography, especially for women with larger and denser breasts.
3D mammography, known as tomosynthesis, and discussed in my book, Pink Ribbon Journey when it was still in the research stage, can find significantly more cancers than traditional mammography. Another common concern about mammography is that of false positives, and the fear of being called back for additional tests. One benefit of 3D mammography is it can provide peace of mind, reducing the need for call-backs by up to 15%, particularly among younger women and those with dense breast tissue.
How fortunate we are to have South Jersey Radiology Associates (SJRA) here, the first site in the South Jersey region to offer the 3D mammogram. In fact, ALL mammography done at SJRA is digital. They use the most up to date technology throughout their many area locations. I was not surprised to learn SJRA Women’s Centers, have been designated as Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. Dr. Catherine Piccoli, also featured in my book, is one of the centers directors, and is a nationally recognized, board certified, breast imager. She saved my life when she detected a teeny, tiny tumor on my annual mammogram.
Here are my tips when scheduling a mammogram: Only go to a facility that uses digital mammography. Film imaging is old technology. Consider 3D mammography if you are younger and/or have dense breast tissue. Remember, your mammogram is only as good as the radiologist who reads it. A breast imager is a radiologist, specially trained in reading mammograms, breast MRI’s and breast ultrasounds. Research has proven the most accurate readings come from the most seasoned doctors. Make certain the facility you go to is FDA certified and meets the standards set by the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA).