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When and Why We Need Mammograms

According to the American Cancer Society Cancer Statistics Center, over half (57%) of women 45 years and older in Wyoming were up-to-date on their mammography screenings. We’d love to see that percentage go up. Breast cancer was the second leading cancer-related cause of death in Wyoming between 2015 and 2019. (Lung cancer was first.)

If you are fortunate to enjoy good health or don’t have cancer in your family, it’s easy not to worry about scheduling screenings. However, it’s always good to be proactive when it comes to your health, and that includes going for a mammogram.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray image of your breasts. It can be a bit uncomfortable. During a mammogram the breasts are compressed between two flat surfaces. This allows the X-ray to capture as much of the breast tissue as possible. Many healthcare offices now provide 3D mammograms, as well as the traditional 2D mammograms. The 3D mammogram can improve detecting cancer in dense breast tissue.

When should you schedule your first mammogram?

The American Cancer Society recommends the following for women with average risk of developing breast cancer:

  • Women between the ages of 40 and 44 have the option to start annual mammograms.
  • Women 45 to 54 should get a mammogram every year.
  • Women age 55 and older can opt to have a mammogram every other year, or continue annual mammograms.

Why should you have a mammogram?

Mammograms are critical in breast cancer screening. A mammogram can detect breast cancer before you experience any symptoms or notice a lump. Early detection allows for early treatment, and that puts you in the best position to fight it. When detected early, there is a good chance of removing localized cancer without having to go through a mastectomy, removing the breast with surgery.

Keep in mind, mammograms aren’t 100% reliable. Breast tissue can hide breast cancer, preventing it from showing up on a mammogram. This is called a false negative. On the other hand, a mammogram can reveal an abnormality that looks like cancer but isn’t. This is called a false positive. In the latter case, a patient would need to go through further testing, such as a breast MRI or ultrasound.

If you are getting a mammogram done, try to schedule your appointment when your breasts are least likely to be tender (That can usually be the week after your menstrual cycle). Also, do not apply deodorant before your visit. Many deodorants have metallic particles that can show up in the mammogram images and cause confusion. Call our office at (307) 634-5216 to check if you need to schedule an appointment. 

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