October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! And in preparation, Fair Lawn Imaging wants to make sure everyone knows how important breast cancer screening is, when women should start getting regular mammograms, and what to know about your appointment.
At Fair Lawn Imaging, we provide a variety of medical imaging services, including:
We utilize the latest technology to ensure that our patients get the best care and high-quality images. If your doctor needs you to have a bone density scan to diagnose osteoporosis, if your doctor needs a moving image of your heart, or if it’s time for your annual mammogram, our medical imaging services provide clear results that will ensure you are getting the best treatment plan. Get in touch with Fair Lawn Imaging in Fair Lawn to schedule your appointment with us. Or, our office accepts walk-ins for patients who need an X-ray. We strive to make getting high-quality care as efficient and convenient as possible.
Why Regular Mammograms Are Important
According to breastcancer.org, about 12% of women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer over their lifetime. This statistic alone is often incentive enough for women to schedule a screening. Even though going to a medical imaging center and going through the process isn’t the most ideal way to spend an afternoon, it does provide valuable information. Your doctor will analyze your mammogram results for calcifications, masses, and breast tissue density.
When you get a breast cancer screening, your radiologist will look at the results for calcifications. Calcifications are deposits of calcium found within the breast tissue and show up as white spots on the mammogram. There are two types of calcifications: macrocalcifications and microcalcifications.
Macrocalcifications: These are larger deposits that are typically caused by aging breast arteries, old injuries, or inflammation. Macro deposits are generally not cancerous and further testing, such as a biopsy, is not needed.
Microcalcifications: These show up as tiny specs on the mammogram and they are more concerning. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have cancer, and it may not mean that a biopsy is necessary either. Your radiologist will look closely at the shape, layout, and location of the deposits to determine the next course of action. If they do follow a suspicious pattern or look, your doctor will most likely recommend a biopsy.
A mammogram will also look for any masses in the tissue. A mass, also known as a lump or a tumor, can be many things and you shouldn’t worry until you have more information.
A mass in the tissue could be a simple cyst, which is a fluid-filled sac that is typically non-cancerous. However, there are non-simple cysts that may require a biopsy to gather more information.
A mass could also mean a solid tumor, which is more concerning, but does not mean it’s cancer. The shape, size, and edges of the mass, or tumor, will determine if a biopsy is necessary.
The mammogram will also show the density of your breast tissue, which is how fibers, glands, and fat are distributed in your breast. Having dense breasts isn’t unusual, but there is an increased risk of breast cancer and it can be harder to find cancers when patients have dense breast tissue.
With a regular screening, patients will have a history of mammogram results that the doctor can examine for any significant changes in the tissue. Over time, with several years worth of results, doctors can analyze any changes that may have occurred and determine if further testing is necessary to screen for cancer. Your doctor will also take into account your family history and other factors, such as environment, lifestyle, and more. According to cancer.net, the number of women who have died from breast cancer has decreased in large part due to early detection and from improved treatment. With regular mammograms, it’s easier to catch potential issues earlier, increasing the chance of success.
When Should I Start Getting a Mammogram?
New research and updated guidelines have made things slightly confusing for women who want to know when they should start visiting a medical imaging center for a mammogram. Here are some rough guidelines you can follow:
18 to 40 Years: Women should start breast self-examinations to catch any changes as early as possible.
40 to 44 Years: Women can start getting annual mammograms if they wish, or continue with self-examinations.
45 to 54 Years: Women in this age range should get a mammogram once every year as well as perform self-examinations every month.
55 and Older: Women can choose to continue with annual mammograms or switch to every two years.
It’s important to realize, however, that breast cancer can develop at any age and all women should be aware of their own unique risk for developing cancer. Certain factors can increase the risk, such as family history (especially a mother, daughter, or sister), a history of radiation therapy to the chest, carrying a high-risk gene (BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation), or if the patient is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Anyone who is unsure of whether they should be screened for breast cancer should discuss it with their doctor.
What to Know About Your Appointment
Going to a medical imaging center for a mammogram can be an intimidating process, but it’s important to recognize that the staff performs many screenings on dozens of patients. There isn’t anything to feel self-conscious or nervous about. If you have any questions about a first mammogram, feel free to get in touch with the Fair Lawn Imaging staff. Here are a few quick tips to ease your mind:
Try to use the same facility each time so that results can be easily compared.
Avoid scheduling your appointment the week before your period as your breasts are generally more tender during this time.
On the day of the exam, don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant as they can interfere with the mammogram results.
You will need to fully undress from the waist up, so it may make it easier to wear pants or a skirt rather than a dress.
Each breast will be placed one at a time on a medical imaging machine plate. An upper plastic plate will be lowered to compress the breast as the picture is taken.
Each breast will only be compressed for a few seconds and the entire process takes about 20 minutes.
There may be some discomfort as the breasts are compressed, but let the technician know if you are uncomfortable.
How or when you receive the results will depend on whether your mammogram was normal or abnormal. Be sure to ask the technician and to call your doctor if you don’t hear anything within 10 days.
Remember that an abnormal result doesn’t automatically mean you have cancer, just that further testing is necessary.
Celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month by scheduling a mammogram at Fair Lawn Imaging, providing quality, compassionate medical imaging services. Call today!