Placing a High Priority on Mammogram Screenings for Women

Placing a High Priority on Mammogram Screenings for Women

Second only to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women in the United States. One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

According to the American Cancer Society in 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women along with 62,930 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Most cases of breast cancer in women are found at 50 years of age or older; however, around 11 percent of new cases are found in women younger than 45 years of age.

There is currently no way to prevent breast cancer. The best option is to catch breast cancer early through screenings and exams. Furthermore, the earlier a patient is diagnosed, the more options they have available to them for minimally invasive treatment.

What is a Breast Cancer Screening?

The best way to screen for breast cancer is with a mammogram. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray image of the breast. By screening, the goal is to find breast cancer when it is small, often well before it can be felt, and in some cases before it has even formed a mass.

Age Recommendations for Annual Screenings

Janae Johnson, MD, board certified and fellowship-trained breast imaging radiologist at the TPMG Imaging and Breast Center in Newport News and Williamsburg, recommends that women with an average risk of developing breast cancer begin annual mammogram screenings starting at the age of 40.

Women with a first-degree relative—a parent, sibling, or child—who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are at a higher risk. For these women, it is recommended that annual exams begin at the age of ten years prior to the family member’s age at the time of diagnosis. For instance, if the family member was diagnosed with breast cancer at 45, the recommended age to begin screening mammograms is at age 35.

There is no official age to stop getting preventative mammogram screenings. Dr. Johnson recommends annual mammogram screenings continue until an age where the patient would not elect to pursue treatment in the event of a breast cancer diagnosis.

How Do You Prepare for a Mammogram?

Prior to a mammogram, preparation can help ease some of the initial fear or anxiety and help speed up the process.

  • Do not wear deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder as this can show false calcification, which may require follow-up testing
  • Only have a mammogram performed at facilities certified by the FDA
  • Let technicians know if you have breast implants, as more images may be needed
  • Request or bring prior mammogram imaging with you to the Imaging Center, if possible
  • Tell the clinic if you have a physical disability prior to an appointment

Are Screening Mammograms Covered by Insurance?

By law, beginning at age 40 for women, insurance is required to cover one yearly preventative screening mammogram. A referral is not required for a screening mammogram and is routinely administered to detect breast cancer in women who have no apparent symptoms, contrary to a diagnostic mammogram which are performed after suspicious results are seen on a screening mammogram.

Imaging Options

The TPMG Imaging & Breast Center offers both 2D and 3D breast imaging technology. The type of imaging selected is based on the individual needs of the patient to achieve the best image quality.

A 2D mammogram is the standard of care and is covered under insurance. For women with dense breasts, a 3D mammogram or tomosynthesis is recommended, as it can cut through the tissue and helps to provide a more complete picture. Think of it as a book; a 2D offers the front and back cover, a 3D, however, offers a view inside the pages. This is considered advanced imaging and is not covered by insurance yet. A conventional mammogram or 2D mammogram is made up of two X-rays of each breast and creates a two-dimensional image of the breast. One of the limiting factors for interpreting mammograms is the density of tissue, with a 2D mammogram, there are more chances of “hidden” abnormalities surrounding the dense tissue.

Patient Resource

The FDA regulates all places in the United States that perform mammograms under the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA).

The TPMG Imaging and Breast Center is committed to maintaining the highest quality standards of compassionate and individualized patient care while utilizing the most appropriate level of technology to obtain superior diagnostic images. The facility provides patients same-day appointments and is a lower-cost alternative to inpatient facility charges.

Breast Center of Excellence Distinction

The TPMG Imaging and Breast Center has earned the prestigious designation of “Breast Center of Excellence” from the American College of Radiology, recognized as the gold standard in medical imaging. This rigorous and extensive accreditation process signifies to patients the excellence and quality of the imaging studies completed at the TPMG Imaging and Breast Center. At the TPMG Imaging and Breast Center, mammography images will always be read by a board certified and fellowship trained breast radiologist.

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