Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Early detection is key

mammogram unit

While the month of October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month by the American Cancer Society, health care providers urge women to place an importance on their breast health year-round.

This includes, first and foremost, staying current with regular screenings.

Regular screenings through mammograms provide the patient and their doctor with the best chance to detect breast cancer at an early stage, when it is smaller and not yet spread, and it is more responsive to treatment.

What is the screening?

The standard for breast cancer screening is the mammogram, a diagnostic imaging procedure in which a low-dose X-ray captures images of breast tissue to be examined by a physician for masses and other abnormalities.

In recent years, 3D tomosynthesis mammography technology has been introduced, which allows breast tissue images to be reviewed in 1mm slices, providing greater clarity for a more accurate diagnosis. (It is particularly beneficial to women with dense breast tissue, which is very common and can potentially hide tumors within its fibro-glandular structures.)

McLaren Macomb was the first hospital in Macomb County to offer 3D tomosynthesis mammography.

Recommended screening guidelines

The American Cancer Society has provided a guideline for when women should begin having mammograms and how often.

Age 40 to 44: Women can choose to have a mammogram
Age 45 to 54: Women should get a mammogram every year
Age 55 and up: Women can choose to continue getting a mammogram every year, but they should get one at least every two years

Clinical professionals also recommend regular self-exams at least once a month, and ask women to report any changes or abnormalities to their primary care provider.

What if I can’t afford a mammogram?

McLaren Macomb created the BRAvo for Women program as a resource for women who might not be able to get a potentially life-saving mammogram due to an inability to pay.

Women meeting the income criteria could have all or part of their screening covered by the program.

To request an application from BRAvo for Women, call (586) 493-3474.

When was your last mammogram? Make an appointment today by calling (586) 493-8187.