According to the CDC, nearly 70% of women 40 and older had a mammogram within the past two years. That sounds pretty good — until you realize that nearly a third of women didn’t bother to have this vital screening.
As a leading primary care practice in San Pedro, California, Harbor Community Health Centers wants women to understand why regular mammograms are essential to their health. If you’ve been putting off having a mammogram, here are seven important reasons why you should put this screening test at the top of your to-do list.
This is perhaps the most crucial reason why you should have regular mammograms. Mammograms use X-rays to detect breast cancer while it’s still in early stages when cancer is most treatable (and when treatment is less extensive and costly).
You might be tempted to skip a mammogram because you don’t feel you can fit it into your already overbooked schedule. But doing so could result in far more time-consuming, costly, and emotionally draining treatment later.
Many women erroneously believe that you can only have breast cancer if you have a family history of the disease. While a family history of breast cancer can certainly increase your risk, most women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
Maybe you think you're covered as long as you do routine at-home breast exams. But cancers start small — very small. By the time you feel a lump, cancer may have already spread. Mammograms can help detect cancers long before they cause noticeable symptoms like lumps or other tissue changes.
Dense breasts are breasts that have a high ratio of fibrous tissue compared to fatty tissue. Women with dense breasts have an increased risk of breast cancer — and may also require additional testing to check for possible cancerous growths.
Don’t confuse dense breast tissue with breast firmness — the two have nothing to do with each other. Your breasts can still feel soft and supple, even with dense breast tissue.
How do you know if you have dense breast tissue? By having a mammogram. This is one more reason why regular screenings are so important.
Data show that the longer a woman’s tissues are exposed to estrogen, the higher her risk of breast cancer. Both an early period and later menopause mean higher levels of estrogen are present for longer than average — either or both can increase your risk of developing breast cancer during your lifetime.
Interestingly, postmenopausal women are also at an increased risk of breast cancer. This could partly happen because, after menopause, estrogen is produced mainly in fatty tissue. After menopause, women tend to gain weight, and that increase in fatty tissue could also increase the level of estrogen in the bloodstream.
Mammograms take just a few minutes for each breast. During the test, you’ll stand in front of the mammogram machine with your breast held steady between two plates while the X-ray quickly sweeps across the breast, creating a detailed image of the tissue.
Mammograms are also very accurate at diagnosing breast cancer, even if you don’t have any symptoms. They’re especially accurate in women over age 50.
Annual mammograms are recommended for women beginning at age 45, but you can start having them at age 40 (or earlier, depending on your risk factors). At age 55, you may be able to have mammograms every other year, but that’s a decision you should make with your doctor.
Harbor Community Health Centers wants to make mammograms as convenient as possible for its patients. Every other Tuesday, our practice offers mammograms at our Pacific Avenue location, so you can have a mammogram with a team you trust — and get your results as soon as possible.
To schedule your mammogram or learn more about this crucial medical screening, call 310-547-0202 to book an appointment with the team at Harbor Community Health Centers today.