October is breast cancer awareness month! Here in Anne Arundel County, we are fortunate to have world class resources–including FREE mammograms offered to county residents through a Health Department’s program (click the previous link to see if you are eligible). Most people are aware of breast cancer but many forget to take the steps to detect the disease and encourage others to do the same.
Who Needs Screening?
Women age 40 years or older should be screened annually. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion. At the time of this publishing. The USPTF (United States Preventative Task Force), the ACS (American Cancer Society) and ACOG (American College of Gynecology) are all “in the process of updating” their recommendations. The advice from Evolve Medical Clinics providers is to stay with the current guidelines of 40 and older, yearly, until the guidelines can be made clearer.
What Kind of Screening?
In this case, everyone does seem to agree that digital mammography is the current winner. Or at least that there is “insufficient evidence” to clearly recommend a different modality. From a public health perspective, the most expensive test is not always the best–particularly for screening exams.
What is the difference between Digital vs Analog (typical) mammography?
Some places use analog mammograms, meaning the images are printed on film. Digital mammography allows radiologist to manipulate the images so abnormalities can be more readily seen. Evolve strongly recommends you only go to a center that uses digital mammography. It is also very important that the Radiologist reading your exam be an expert on breast mammography.
Other Important Screening
Breast exams, mammogram and well woman exam are a very important part of women’s health. That said, according to the CDC’s latest data, the leading cause of death over the age of 65 is heart disease and cancer (breast, colon and lung mainly).
Remember: having your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, diabetes screening with fasting sugar are very easy, quick and fast. If you don’t smoke or have already quit, you can dramatically lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular problems by just keeping up with these.
Lastly, the top 3 causes of cancer death, over the age of 45, are breast, lung and colon. Breast cancer mortality can dramatically reduce with regular screening as described above. Lung cancer can be nearly eliminated by not smoking. And colon cancer mortality is dramatically lowered with regular colonoscopy beginning at age 50.
How to Get Screened