Merck Manuals Clears Up Four Mammogram Myths and Misconceptions

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 Cancer News
Email Print This Page Comment bookmark
Font : A-A+

Radiologist Spells Out What Women Need to Know About Breast Cancer Screenings

KENILWORTH, N.J., Oct. 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer and the second deadliest

cancer for women in the United States. Early detection is critical in effective breast cancer treatment, and mammograms are the gold standard in breast cancer screening techniques.

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

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.

About The Merck Manuals and MSD Manuals

First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, The Merck Manual grew in size and scope to become one of the world's most widely used comprehensive medical resources for professionals and consumers. As The Manual evolved, it continually expanded the reach and depth of its offerings to reflect the mission of providing the best medical information to a wide cross-section of users, including medical professionals and students, veterinarians and veterinary students, and consumers. In 2015, The Manuals kicked off Global Medical Knowledge 2020, a program to make the best current medical information accessible by up to three billion professionals and patients around the world by 2020. For access to thousands of medical topics with images, videos and a constantly expanding set of resources, visit or and connect with us on social media:

For Consumers in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook

For Professionals in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook

About Merck

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world's most challenging diseases. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that threaten people and communities around the world - including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer's disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola. For more information, visit and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Cision View original content:


Post your Comments

Comments should be on the topic and should not be abusive. The editorial team reserves the right to review and moderate the comments posted on the site.
* Your comment can be maximum of 2500 characters
I agree to the terms and conditions

News A - Z


News Search

Medindia Newsletters

Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Find a Doctor

Press Release Category

Press Release Archive

Stay Connected

  • Available on the Android Market
  • Available on the App Store