By Alison Shelales, RN
Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator
Reliant Medical Group
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an ideal time to learn more about breast cancer screening. Regular mammograms are one of the best cancer screening tools we have. Discovering breast cancer early is important because it can reduce your mortality risk by 25-30% or more. However, not all women take advantage of this important tool for early cancer detection – usually due to unwarranted fear, expense, or perceived lack of time.
A mammogram is a simple procedure that takes only about 20 minutes to perform. The procedure is also safe, as only a very small amount of radiation is used. At Reliant we know that getting a mammogram can be stressful for many women. That’s why we go out of our way to provide a welcoming environment and a caring staff to make the process as easy as possible. Reliant offers mammography services at four convenient locations – in Worcester, Holden, Leominster and Southborough.
You should discuss with your primary care provider when you should start having mammograms. Typically, all women age 40 and older at average risk for breast cancer should have a yearly mammogram. However, those with a family history of breast cancer and certain other risk factors may need to have mammograms earlier than 40. Keep in mind that the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. So as you get older, a mammogram is more important than ever.
At Reliant, we perform high quality digital mammograms that are recorded on a computer so radiologists can easily enlarge and enhance the images to examine them more closely. Reliant also offers MRI breast exams, ultrasound exams and breast biopsies, when recommended. You can learn more about Reliant’s services here.
Further testing does not always indicate a problem
Many women are understandably nervous about having a mammogram, especially if further testing is needed. Keep in mind that an unusual result on your mammogram requiring further testing does not always mean that you have breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 10% of women (1 in 10) who have a mammogram will require more tests. However, only about 8-10% of these women will need a biopsy and about 80% of these biopsies will turn out not to be cancer. So you shouldn’t worry excessively about having additional testing.
There’s no doubt that mammograms are considered our most powerful detection tool for breast cancer. However, breast self-examinations done at home are also important. (Since no detection method is 100% exact, it’s helpful to use more than one screening tool.) Early detection of breast cancer means that treatment can be less extensive and the prognosis is better. Like all cancers, the earlier it is caught, the better.
Now is the perfect time to schedule a mammogram or discuss getting one with your primary care provider. Don’t put it off!
Alison Shelales, RN (left) Reliant’s Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator and Sarah Nadarajah, NP (right), a nurse practitioner who specializes in women’s health and breast conditions carefully guide and support patients who require treatment for breast cancer.