breast health

mammography works: recommendations in light of controversial report

Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued controversial mammography recommendations that seemed to contradict previous notions. USPSTF's announcement, which some officials have since said was partly misread, suggested these changes to the recommendations:

  • Women between 40 and 49 no longer be screened for breast cancer unless they had an increased risk of the disease

  • Women between 50 and 74 get screened every other year instead of every year

  • Women over age 74 not be screened at all

What to make of this message?

Mammography may not be a perfect tool, but it does make a difference. According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), there are several points that should be considered:

  • Mammography has reduced the breast cancer death rate in the U.S. by 30 percent since 1990

  • One invasive cancer is found for every 556 mammograms performed in women in their 40s

  • Mammography only every other year in women 50 to 74 would miss 19 to 33 percent of cancers that could be detected by annual screenings

  • Starting at age 50 would sacrifice 33 years of life per 1,000 women screened that could have been saved if screening had begun at age 40

  • 85 percent of abnormal mammograms require only additional images to clarify whether cancer is present. Only two percent of women who get screening mammograms require a biopsy

For questions regarding mammography, contact the OLBH Women's Center at (606) 836-PINK (7465).

breast care coordinator

Beth Wilson, RT, breast care coordinator, leads a comprehensive breast care program at OLBH, as well as provides educational seminars and screenings. The emphasis and coordination of women's health services allows OLBH to utilize a team approach to breast cancer and women's health with components of imaging, surgery, oncology and community involvement/education.

For more information, Wilson can be contacted at 606-833-3928.

screening vs. diagnostic 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. Mammograms make it possible to detect tumors that cannot be felt. Mammograms also can find tiny deposits of calcium in the breast that can indicate the presence of breast cancer. Screening mammograms are recommended by the American Cancer Society yearly for women beginning at age 40.

How are screening and diagnostic mammograms different?

A diagnostic mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of breast cancer has been found. Signs of breast cancer may include pain, skin thickening, nipple discharge, skin retractions, skin changes or a change in breast size or shape.

A diagnostic mammogram also may be used to evaluate changes found a screening mammogram because of special circumstances, such as the presence of breast implants.

importance of breast screenings

Women are encouraged to perform monthly, self- breast exams beginning at age 20. Clinical breast exams should be conducted by a health professional once every two to three years, beginning at age 20. At age 40, women should begin having annual mammograms. If an individual has a family history of breast cancer, and/or experiences a lump, pain or discharge in the breast area, mammograms should be performed earlier than age 40. Early detection of breast cancer can be treated successfully.

To schedule a mammogram at the OLBH Women's Center, call 606-836-PINK (7465) or toll-free at 866-365-PINK.

preparing for a mammogram

The American Cancer Society recommends the following tips for mammograms:

  • Do not schedule a mammogram for the week before menstrual cycle begins because the breasts are usually tender during this time; the best time is a week after a period.

  • Physician should be notified if the patient thinks she could be pregnant.

  • Do not wear deodorant, powder or lotion before the procedure in order to prevent inaccurate readings of calcium spots.

  • Breast problems or symptoms should be explained to the mammogram technologist

  • Ask when results will be available.

To schedule a mammogram at the OLBH Women's Center, call 606-836-PINK (7465) or toll-free at 866-365-PINK.

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