Mammograms are a regular part of being a healthy woman. Every woman between age 40 and 74 should have a mammogram regularly. If you experience symptoms or have a family history of breast cancer, you might need to start screening earlier. Younger women should ask their gynecologists about the right time to begin having mammograms. Despite their use leading to many saved lives, myths about mammograms still circulate. Let’s bust these myths with Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group and share the truth about mammograms!
Myth: Mammograms are only for women over 40.
Fact: Women can get breast cancer at any age. While younger women have a lower risk of breast cancer compared to older women, other factors can increase a woman’s risk regardless of age. A woman’s risk is 1.8 times higher if an immediate female relative has had breast cancer. Ethnicity, smoking, weight, pregnancies, breastfeeding, and many other factors contribute to your risk for breast cancer. Take this Breast Cancer Risk Assessment and ask your gynecologist when you should start getting mammograms. Remember to perform regular breast self-exams to catch changes in your breasts.
Myth: Mammograms don’t help.
Fact: Mammograms are the best way for doctors to spot breast cancer and treat it early. 80 percent of the time they are accurate. While it is possible for mammograms to give a false negative (meaning that the mammogram does not identify the cancer, even though it is present), having mammograms and other screenings regularly reduces the chance of cancer going undetected. Sometimes mammograms give false positives, wherein the test shows that a patient has breast cancer when they actually don’t. Thankfully, follow up tests are always used to confirm a positive test result and will demonstrate if a person does or does not have breast cancer.
Myth: Mammograms are dangerous.
Fact: Yes, mammograms, like x-rays, emit radiation. Radiation exposure does raise your risk of cancer. However, the radiation emission in mammograms is incredibly small. Plus, through the years, scientific advances have allowed mammograms to test with smaller and smaller amounts of radiation. The benefits of detecting breast cancer are far greater than the possibility of harm through mammogram radiation.
While mammograms are perfectly safe for most people, talk with your gynecologist to make sure they are right for you. If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, check with your OB/GYN before having a mammogram. Radiation, which might not hurt you, could harm your developing baby. Similarly, if you’ve had a great deal of x-rays or other scans that involve radiation, ask your doctor if a mammogram is right for you.
To make your mammogram as accurate as possible, don’t wear deodorant, any creams, perfumes, or powders in your underarm area or on your breasts. Hormonal breast changes, breast implants, and breast surgeries may also impact how accurate your mammogram is.
Early detection is the key to surviving breast cancer. The 5-year survival rate for women with early stage breast cancer is close to 100%. Take a minute to schedule your mammogram online today.
Breast Cancer Facts
CDC - What is Breast Cancer Screening?
CDC - What is a Mammogram?