KENILWORTH, N.J., Oct. 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer and the second deadliest
But due to conflicting screening recommendations, changes in mammogram technology, concerns about pain or radiation exposure and alternative screening procedures, many patients have misconceptions about breast cancer screening.
To help patients navigate breast cancer screenings, Kathleen Kirtek, MD, radiologist at Genesys Regional Medical Center and Karmanos Cancer Center, dispels four common patient myths around mammograms in a new editorial on MerckManuals.com.
Dr. Kirtek's editorial sets the record straight on patients' most pressing misconceptions.
1. Myth: Women don't need to think about mammograms until they turn 40
Fact: Long before her 40th birthday, every woman should start talking with her doctor about her specific breast cancer risks and when to start getting mammograms. Groups, including The American College of Radiology (ACR) and Society of Breast Imaging (SBI), recommend that women at average risk (lifetime risk <15%) of breast cancer begin annual mammograms at age 40. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, on the other hand, recommends mammograms only starting at age 50.
Women should sit down with their doctor at age 30 to talk about their specific risk of developing invasive breast cancer. Physicians will determine a patient's risk based on a number of factors, including medical, reproductive and family history.
Self-breast exams are another crucial early detection tool. Women should know what healthy breasts feel like so they can better identify lumps, changes or other early breast cancer symptoms.
2. Myth: All mammograms are the same
Fact: Two-dimensional digital imaging was the first to replace film-based mammograms. Today, three-dimensional mammography (also known as breast tomosynthesis) has emerged as an even more effective tool for detecting cancer.
All major insurance carriers now cover 3-D mammograms. Women should ask about the kind of imaging that will be used when considering where to have a mammogram, including mobile units, freestanding centers and hospitals.
3. Myth: Mammograms are painful and dangerous
Fact: The benefits of mammograms at the right age far outweigh the brief discomfort and minimal radiation exposure.
During a mammogram, the breasts are firmly flattened to allow the maximum amount of tissue to be examined. This stretching is critical to get the best image and lasts for a few seconds at most. Otherwise, the procedure is painless – no knives or needles. Research has found that for women over 40, the benefits of mammography far outweigh the risks of low-dose radiation exposure.
4. Myth: Thermography is an OK alternative to mammograms
Fact: Thermography is a test that displays heat and blood flow. Some women believe this test is a good alternative to a mammogram because it's painless and doesn't expose them to any radiation. However, it is not an effective substitute to mammograms. In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently issued a warning about misleading claims around thermography.
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