A woman living in the U.S. has a one-in-eight lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 260,000 new cases will be diagnosed in U.S. women this year alone.
Women who get regular physical activity have a 10 to 20% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women are inactive, but millions of women are at risk. Compared to women without a family history, the risk of breast cancer is about two times higher for women with one affected first-degree female relative.
With so many women at risk for breast cancer, mammography remains an effective tool in the fight against the disease. Studies show that mammography reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer between 20% and 40%. According to the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, 50% of women 40 or older reported having had a mammogram within the last year and 64% reported having a mammogram in the past two years.
Annual mammograms can detect breast cancer early and help women get treatment in the early stages of the disease. Mammograms can detect and show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient can feel them.
When it comes to getting a mammogram, there are several things to keep in mind. Not the least of which is where you get a mammogram done and who reads it. Having high quality equipment for use in a mammogram will help a radiologist get the best possible picture of breasts to help detect signs of cancer.
Signs of breast cancer can include:
- Areas of thickening skin
- Calcifications, especially in small clusters
- Irregular areas of increased density
One way breast cancer testing has improved in recent years is through the use of 3-D mammography. This creates a 3-D picture of a breast using X-rays. While it is effective, 3-D mammography isn’t yet the standard for breast cancer testing as it is a newer technology and not readily available.
That aside, over time, 3D mammography has been found to have many benefits for detecting breast cancer:
- Better detection: 3-D mammography can make it easier for radiologists to see tumors and the opportunity to review multiple images has helped doctors detect cancer more than with traditional 2-D images.
- Effective and safe: While it is true that women are exposed to a tiny bit more radiation with 3-D mammography, it’s well below FDA limits and doesn’t cause any harm. Bottom line, 3-D mammography offers plenty of benefits, which outweigh potential risks.
- Decreased anxiety: There’s nothing worse than getting a false alarm and thinking you’ve got a health scare. With improved accuracy and a better overall picture, 3-D mammography can cut down on the number of false alarms as well as the need for additional testing like scans or a breast biopsy procedure.
- Early diagnosis: As previously mentioned, there’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve got breast cancer or waiting to hear back on results. With 3-D mammography, cancer can be detected much faster than a traditional scan or breast biopsy procedure.
After getting a mammogram, it’s important to have a good radiologist to read your results. Most of the time a radiologist can’t tell a woman for sure whether or not a mammogram picture does or does not show cancer, because it often requires further testing to know for sure. That being said, an experienced radiologist knows what to look for and can at the very least give a woman some indication of what’s going on.
If you are in need of a mammogram or breast biopsy procedure, online sites about breast cancer provide a wealth of information for patients on what to expect during testing. For women at average-risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that those 40 to 44 years of age have the option to begin annual mammography.
For those wanting to know more about 3-D mammography or breast biopsy procedure, your doctor and specialists can answer any questions you have to put your mind at ease.