Orlando F. Mills, MD, MPH

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Mammograms

Do I really want or need to have a Mammogram?

If you are a woman between the ages of 40 and 69 years old, finding breast cancer early can save your life.  Most likely, you do not have breast cancer, so give yourself the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you do not. 

 

If you are age 20-39:

  • Breast exam by your doctor or nurse every three years.

 

If you are age 40-49:

  • Mammogram every two years
  • Breast exam by your doctor or nurse every year

 

If you are age 50-75:

  • Mammogram every year

 

What is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is a breast x-ray and the best screening test for reducing the risk of dying from breast cancer. Modern mammography equipment is safe and exposes the breast to extremely low levels of radiation.

 

Who is at risk for breast cancer?

Your risk is greater if a close relative has had breast cancer.  But more than 80% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women who do not have a mother or sister who has had breast cancer. More than three-fourths of all breast cancers occur in women over age 50. 

 

There is something you can do to prevent breast cancer.

We do not know what causes breast cancer, but we know what can improve women’s chances for beating this disease- early detection.  When breast cancer is found early, a woman increases her chance for successful treatment. 

 

What about Self Breast Examination?

Many women practice breast self-examination on a regular basis and find this improves their ability to detect subtle changes that would otherwise not have been noticed such as:

  • A lump
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Anything that is unusual for you

 

These changes are most likely not cancer but schedule a visit with Dr. Mills.  And remember that a mammogram can find a tumor much earlier than you can feel it.

 

Can I afford a Mammogram?

The cost of mammograms is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances.  The American Cancer Society has information about low cost mammograms that are available in most communities (1-800-ACS-2345).

Free mammograms for uninsured persons who meet eligibility criteria are available as follows:

  • CentraState Medical Center call 732-303-3636
  • CEED- Services available in Freehold, Red Bank and Asbury Park; call Kathy 732-933-3952

 

What happens during a Mammogram?  Is it embarrassing?

When you arrive for the mammogram, you will be asked to undress from the waist up and wear a warmed hospital gown. You will stand beside the mammogram machine and one breast is exposed at a time.  A specially trained technologist helps you to place your breast onto the plastic plate of the machine.  A second plastic piece is placed on top of the breast.  For a few seconds, the top piece of plastic is brought down to flatten the breast as much as possible for the X-ray. 

The entire mammogram exam takes about 15 minutes.


Is Mammogram painful?

Many women feel some discomfort during a mammogram; however, the technologist will ask you if you are experiencing any pain while applying pressure needed for the test.   Mammograms are most uncomfortable when done just before or at the beginning of the menstrual period so should avoid scheduling at these times.

 

What happens if they find something?

A radiologist will read the mammogram to see if any suspicious areas are present.  If a mass is found, you may be required to have further testing scheduled.  This may be a return visit for an ultrasound test. 

 

If the ultrasound shows new calcium deposits or other abnormal findings, a biopsy or sample of breast tissue will be advised. This involves surgical or needle aspiration of breast tissue which is further examined by a pathologist. A biopsy is the only sure way to know if cancer is present.  Even if you are told you need a biopsy, remember that more than 80% of lumps or suspicious areas are not cancer. 

 

Options for treatment

If a lump is found early, while it is still small and before any symptoms appear, a woman has more options for treatment.  Breast surgery may just involve removal of the mass along with a small amount of breast tissue rather than the whole breast.  You will be referred to an oncologist who will discuss these treatment options.

 

Early Detection is critical!

  • Early detection means that a woman’s chance for saving her breast is better, and the treatment her doctor suggests will almost always have fewer side effects.
  • All women should discuss the need for a mammogram with their physician starting at age 40.
  • Mammograms have the highest rate of detecting breast cancer and reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer.
  • Getting a mammogram is easier than you think, but ultimately your decision to make.