GREENSBORO, N.C. — Breast cancer is often discussed during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, but mammograms are a topic with year round importance.
The American Cancer Society recommends women start annual mammogram screenings at age 40 and sometimes even sooner based on a strong family history.
"When you hear get your mammogram, we're talking about that yearly screening mammogram. Think of it as another preventative health screening, so think of it like going to the dentist every year or going to get a physical every year," said Amanda Scarlett, a mammography supervisor at Norville Breast Center at Alamance Regional.
You may hear about two kinds of mammograms: screening and diagnostic.
A screening mammogram means you have not noticed any problems and is the yearly preventative screening.
A diagnostic mammogram happens after you've noticed changes to your breasts or when the radiologist needs to see you back due to an area of concern or an area that has changed since your last mammogram.
During your mammogram you can expect it to last about 10 to 15 minutes. It may be uncomfortable but if the pain gets to be to much, just ask the radiologist to stop.
Otherwise getting a mammogram should be another simple step in your overall health and wellness journey.
"Grab your girlfriends, come in, make it a date, get your mammogram done, hold each other accountable and then go get some lunch. We try to keep it hassle free from the day you schedule, to the day you come in," said Scarlett.
Myths about mammograms
- There is a difference between 2D and 3D imaging. 2D imagining catches just the image of the breast while 3D imagining lets radiologists scan through layers and get more information.
- Dense breast tissue is different for everyone. Each woman has a different mix of fatty versus dense breast makeup. It depends on their genetics.
- A majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history. It's why it is so important to get a yearly mammogram, even if you do not have concerns.
- Get a mammogram even if you are not having issues. You do not want to give cancer time to grow. A mammogram can catch some of the early warning signs of cancer, even before a lump grows.
How to schedule
Some providers like your OB/GYN or your primary care provider may call and set up a mammogram for you.
You can also call a center where mammograms are offered and get one set up on your own.
Cone Health provides this service but if you do go somewhere else make sure you look for a facility that offers 3D imaging, somewhere with breast dedicated radiologists and a center that is certified by the Food and Drug Administration and the American College of Radiology.
Cone Health also offers options for women who are not insured or may be under insured and need help getting a mammogram covered.