October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last week on the Talking Health program on News Radio 1240 KQEN, Kelly Griffith, lead mammography technologist at Outpatient Imaging for CHI Mercy Health, and Angelia Freeman, the outreach program manager for the Community Cancer Center, talked with host Lisa Platt about the importance of mammograms and regular check-ups to catch breast cancer early.
Lisa: What is a mammography screening and when should a woman begin screening?
Kelly: A screening mammogram is a study that we do, to look for breast cancer. The American College of Radiology and the American College of OBGYN’s both recommend that we start screening mammography at age 40 and have it annually thereafter. A mammography is currently the gold standard and the best test we have for screening for breast cancer.
Lisa: What should women do to prepare for a mammogram?
Kelly: The day of your exam, we ask that you not wear any deodorant or bath powder. Both of those personal hygiene items can show up on the mammogram. Also, wearing a two-piece outfit makes it more convenient for the exam. Some ladies that have tender breast tissue, find that taking Tylenol or Advil before they come in for the exam can make it more comfortable.
Lisa: How often should women get a mammogram?
Kelly: It is recommended yearly for a screening mammogram. Of course if someone has any kind of issues, then more often than that.
Lisa: How long does a mammography exam last?
Kelly: For the mammogram exam itself, you’re in the room for maybe 10 minutes so it’s really pretty short.
Lisa: When we have mammograms done, how long will it take to get the results?
Kelly: Sometimes it takes two days, but generally within a day of your exam. Every doctor’s office has a different method of letting their patients know the results. We are required to send out a written letter to every patient. We strive to get those out within a week to the patients.
Lisa: Can you tell us about the 3-D mammography technology and the differences between 3-D and 2-D?
Kelly: The 3-D mammography equipment allows us to take pictures of the breast more in a slice type of image. Each slice is a little bit of information that we can compile to give us a lot of information. CT Scans allow us to get much more detail of a breast imaging exam, so the radiologists can access different information than we were able to do with a 2-D.
Lisa: Why is it important for Douglas County women to get an annual screening?
Kelly: Annual screening mammography is our best bet if we’re going to catch a cancer early, so we can treat it and have it be a cure. Early detection is the best protection we have. The earlier we can find a problem, the better off we are, the less surgical invasion has to be done, and the less treatments, and it becomes a full cure instead of just treating the problem.
Lisa: Who is at risk for breast cancer, what are some of the risk factors?
Kelly: The biggest risk factor is being a female. Age is probably the second risk factor, and then family history, although the majority of breast cancer we find today, the patients really don’t have a family history of breast cancer. So it’s really important to get your screenings whether you have a family history or not. Other risk factors are diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption, but the big one is just the fact that you are a woman.
Lisa: What percentage of women will get breast cancer?
Angelia: We are one of the highest areas per capita for later stage diagnosis. And the national figure is one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. As far as risk factors, genetic factors you can’t change. Things that you can change would have to do with environmental factors, and also with your lifestyles. If you have sedentary lifestyles or if you have poor nutrition, then you’re going to increase your risk factors and that’s where we come in with our community outreach and our education about what can you do to lower those risk factors.
Lisa: How does the outreach program program work?
Angelia: The outreach program at the Community Cancer Center focuses on education when it comes to cancer risk management, so we take a look at lung health, prostate health and breast health and this month of course being October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re really promoting breast health with our Power of Pink campaign.
Lisa: Tell us about the Power of Pink campaign?
Angelia: We want to empower women to understand what awareness means, and there are certain things you need to be doing such as having a mammography if you’re over the age of 40, knowing what your normal is, understanding what healthy lifestyle choices are.
Lisa: Would you talk about self-exams?
Angelia: We recommend that all women over the age of 20 perform a self breast assessment, and that falls into the category of knowing what your normal is. The average woman has lots of different ridges that you’ll feel, and lumps and bumps and depending on what time of the month, if your estrogen levels are higher or lower. We recommend doing the self assessment monthly, preferably at the same time every month, so pick a date and stick with it.