Annual mammograms recommended for women over 40
Wendy Elvis, lead mammography technician (left), demonstrates the use of a mammogram machine with Melissa McRae. Mammograms are recommended for women over the age of 40 and those whose family has a history of breast cancer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland)
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — Medical officials recommend women age 40 and older have a mammogram annually to detect for signs of breast cancer.
“Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40 percent since 1990. Annual mammograms can help detect cancer in its earliest stages when it’s most treatable,” said Army Maj. Sara Michael, a diagnostic radiologist and Chief of Mammography and Ultrasound at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital.
A mammogram is an x-ray that shows the tissue inside of a breast. The x-ray creates an image that a radiologist like Michael can use to look for abnormalities in the breast. In most cases a patient is fine and won’t need another mammogram until the following year. Regular mammograms can better help your healthcare team in detecting cancer by giving them a progressive look at your breast over time.
“For every 1,000 women who have a mammogram, about 100 are called back for another look with an additional mammogram or an ultrasound. If the Radiologist sees an abnormality, then a biopsy can be ordered which allows the medical team to collect tissue from the breast for a pathologist to evaluate and determine if cancer is present,” said Michael.
A mammogram can detect signs of cancer well before it can be detected during a self-breast exam, which is the reason women over 40 are encouraged to have the procedure annually. Detecting cancer early improves a woman’s chance of a successful treatment.
Aside from some skin cancers, breast cancer is among the most common cancer affecting women. More than 200,000 cases are diagnosed annually.
Michael recommends not having a mammogram the week before or during your period. Breasts may be tender or swollen during that time causing discomfort during the procedure. Once a mammogram is scheduled, Michael offered the following tips:
- Don’t apply deodorant, perfume, or powder before your mammogram because these can show up as white spots on the X-ray
- Dress comfortably in a top and bottom so you can easily undress from your waist up for the mammogram.
- Plan to spend about 30 minutes in the clinic. While the mammogram takes just minutes, patients should allow time to complete paper work.
Once completed, patients will receive a letter in the mail explaining in easy to understand wording what, if any, next steps need to be taken. The clinic personnel will call patients who need additional imaging due to an abnormality seen on their screening mammogram, so it is very important to ensure a proper phone number is on the intake form.
According to the TRICARE website, women beneficiaries over 40 are authorized a mammogram annually. Additionally, younger patients with certain risk factors can ask their healthcare physician or provider for a referral and use risk models to determine if additional screening measures are needed.
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