Breast Cancer Still Significant Health Threat to American Women

According to current medical statistics, every three minutes in the United States a women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the course of this year, that will total some 182,000 women. In the same year, more than 46,000 others will lose their battle against this disease. Despite the tremendous surge in public awareness about breast cancer in this country, it has not moved from its place as the leading form of cancer affecting American women.

A Mammography Can Save Your Life

Yet something important has changed. There is now irrefutable evidence that early detection of breast cancer -- especially through the use of a mammogram -- could actually save the lives of nearly a third of the women who die each year from breast cancer. Research has shown that a routine mammography can detect 40% of all cancers not found through an examination by yourself or your doctor.

Early Detection Is Important For Everyone

Every woman is at risk for breast cancer, no matter what her age, her health, or her family health history. In fact, three quarters of all women diagnosed with breast cancer have none of the known risk factors for the disease, including having an immediate family member who also had breast cancer. While it is true that, if you are a woman, your risk of developing this form of cancer is greater if your grandmother, mother or sister has had it, nearly 80% of all women diagnosed have no family history of the disease.

For this reason, early detection is important to all women -- and the single best method of early detection is the mammography.

Mammography: A Critical Part of Breast Cancer Prevention

A mammogram is nothing more than a special type of x-ray, than can reveal the presence of tumors that are too small to be detected by touch. Yet many women are still unwilling, or unfortunately unable, to get regular mammograms. Whether they are afraid of results, or unsure of the procedure, it is critically important for women -- particularly women over 50 years of age -- to go for regular mammograms.

What Is A Mammography? What Happens When I Get One?

1. What is a mammogram? A mammogram is a special breast x-ray that can reveal the presence of small cancers up to two years before they can be felt by you or your health care provider.

2. What is it like to have a mammogram? When you have a mammogram, you stand next to an x-ray machine, and a technologist helps you place your breast in a plastic tray, and for a few seconds, there is pressure applied to flatten the breast while the x-ray is taken. Usually, a mammogram includes two views of the breast. While some woman say the mammogram is uncomfortable, the majority report no discomfort. The compression lasts for only a few seconds.

3. Are mammograms safe? Yes, mammograms are safe, when done at an accredited facility. Tremendous advances have been made in mammography techniques and equipment over the last 20 years. The level of radiation used today is quite low and is not harmful. In fact, according to the American College of Radiology, with a quality mammogram you receive less radiation that riding round trip in a car from New York to Boston.

4. When should I have a mammogram? While there has been some public confusion over specific mammography screening guidelines, the members of the Board of Sponsors of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month agree that mammography remains the most effective means currently available for detecting breast cancer in its early stages. Board members are unanimous in the message for all women ages 30 to have regular screening mammograms.

Evidence is not definitive on the impact on mortality from routine screening mammography for women ages 40-49. Studies to date to do not show a statistically significant reduction in breast cancer mortality from the use of mammography for that age group. However, many Board members continue to support the American Cancer Society's recommendation that women receive a baseline mammogram at age 40, and screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years between the ages of 40 and 49.

5. Where should I go for a mammogram? Ask your health care provider to recommend an American College of Radiology-accredited mammography facility. Hospitals, women's clinics, and health departments frequently offer mammography screening.

6. How will I pay for a mammogram? If you are over 65, Medicare benefits are available. Many states now require that insurance companies provide coverage for mammograms. Check with your insurance carrier to determine available benefits.