It’s October, that time of year when things get spooky and pink ribbons abound. What’s so scary about pink ribbons? Well, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink ribbons are the symbol of breast cancer awareness, a disease that takes the lives of over 40,000 women every year.
Here at Maiden Lane Medical, we’re women’s health advocates and want to empower all women to understand their health and get critical cancer screenings like mammograms that can save your life.
Get the facts about breast cancer.
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women (after skin cancer)
- Over 252,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women
- More than 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in America today
- Early detection and treatment is essential to survival
A mammogram can save your life.
When breast cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, your chances of survival increase. You should check your breasts at home every month. The best time to check is right after your period.
With one arm raised above your head, use your opposite hand to feel your breast tissue. Start in your underarm, then move your hand in a counter-clockwise direction. You also have breast exams at your annual well-woman visit. The women’s health team here at Maiden Lane Medical provides referrals for your yearly mammogram.
However, you might not be able to feel abnormal tissue in its early stages. From the ages of 40-54, all women should have annual mammograms for a more thorough breast cancer screening. When you turn 55, talk to your women’s health care provider about whether you should continue to have annual mammograms or if you should reduce the frequency to every other year. Also, if you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your risk and find out if you need to start having mammograms earlier.
What happens during a mammogram?
A mammogram is a type of X-ray that reveals abnormal tissue or tumors in your breasts. You don’t need to do anything special to prepare for your mammogram, but you may want to wear a shirt with pants or a skirt on the day of your appointment. During the test, you take off your shirt. Also, don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant on the day of your mammogram as it can show up as white spots on your X-ray. Your technician may give you a hospital gown to wear, but keep open at the front.
During the test, you stand in front of the machine and place your breast on a plate. Your technician lowers a top plate that compresses your breast, which helps the X-ray create a clear image. The process is repeated on your other breast.
Some women find the compression uncomfortable, but mammograms are relatively quick. The whole procedure only takes around 20 minutes, and the compression only lasts for a few seconds on each breast.
What happens if my mammogram shows abnormal tissue?
If your mammogram has an abnormal result, your doctor at Maiden Lane Medical invites you into the office for a consultation. You discuss your results and your next steps. For example, your doctor may recommend a biopsy to get more information about the abnormal tissue.
A biopsy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows your doctor to collect a sample of cells from your body. In many cases, a breast cancer biopsy is performed with a thin, hollow needle that extracts a sample of cells. The cells are examined in a lab. If they’re cancerous, your doctor refers you to an oncologist who can explain your treatment options.
Remember, early diagnosis is critical to breast cancer survival. If you’re due for a well-woman appointment or need a referral for a mammogram, call Maiden Lane Medical or make an appointment online today.