Monthly Self-Examinations and Yearly Mammograms Important in Early Detection
of Breast Cancer
REDLANDS, Calif. – October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month,
designed to increase awareness among women of the importance of early
detection of breast cancer through regular self-examinations and mammograms.
However, awareness of breast cancer and early detection of this disease
should be a year-round process that can add years to your life.
“Simply put, breast cancer is a malignant tumor that has developed
within cells of the breast,” explains Tara Cauthron RDMS, RT(R)(M),
Manager of the Women’s Health Imaging Center. “There are several
different kinds, but some of the most common breast cancers are considered
non-invasive, meaning they haven't spread to other tissue or parts
of the body, and may be treated successfully if found early.”
Regardless of the type, early detection and treatment allows for the greatest
chance of recovery. Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses
a low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts. A mammography exam, called
a mammogram, is used to aid in the early detection and diagnosis of breast
diseases in women.
An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians
diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing
a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures
of the inside of the body.
Mammography plays a central part in early detection of breast cancers because
it can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or
physician can feel them. Current guidelines from the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the
American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Radiology
(ACR) recommend screening mammography every year for women, beginning
at age 40. Research has shown that annual mammograms lead to early detection
of breast cancers, when they are most curable and breast-conservation
therapies are available.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) adds that women who have had breast
cancer and those who are at increased risk due to a genetic history of
breast cancer should seek expert medical advice about whether they should
begin screening before age 40 and about the frequency of screening.
Before scheduling a mammogram, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and other
specialty organizations recommend that you discuss any new findings or
problems in your breasts with your doctor. In addition, inform your doctor
of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of
Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your
breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time for a mammogram
is one week following your period. Always inform your doctor or x-ray
technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.
The ACS also recommends you:
- Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your
breasts on the day of the exam. These can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
- Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
- If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist
at the time of the current exam.
- Ask when your results will be available; do not assume the results are
normal if you do not hear from your doctor or the mammography facility.
Redlands Community Hospital is an independent not for profit, stand-alone hospital.