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DR. BRIDGET GIBSON: Make time for your mammogram (column)

Dr. Bridget Gibson

Dr. Bridget Gibson

We all feel that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but your breast health should not be neglected. 

Mammograms are the most effective form of early detection of breast cancer, but “early” is the key. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one out of every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and mammograms are the most effective form of early detection. 

This is your friendly reminder to protect yourself with regular mammograms.

For women at average risk for breast cancer, the ACS recommends starting annual mammograms at age 45, with the option to start at age 40. We advise screening as long as the patient is in good health. 

A woman should become familiar with how her breasts normally look and feel so she can contact her doctor if there are any changes. A small percentage (less than 2 percent) of women should also be screened with an MRI due to their family history, a genetic tendency or other factors.

There are two types of mammograms:

  • Screening mammogram. A screening mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. It usually involves two X-rays of each breast. Using a mammogram, it is possible to detect a tumor that cannot be felt.

  • Diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to diagnose unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, nipple thickening or discharge, or a change in breast size or shape.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4 out of 10 adults are delaying medical care because of concerns related to the pandemic.

During October – also known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – if you have missed or are behind schedule for a mammogram, do not delay rescheduling these procedures. Early diagnosis of breast cancer can greatly increase the chance of successful treatment.

Dr. Bridget Gibson is a family medicine physician for Brookwood Baptist Health.