For every woman 40 years and older, it’s important to have an annual mammogram to screen for possible signs of cancer. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many women avoided elective procedures and cancer screenings altogether. This caused a large drop in the number of regular mammograms, which has had the unfortunate result of a rise in progressive cases of cancer. All medical practices have been diligent about putting safety precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so you can feel safe about planning, scheduling, and getting your regular mammogram.
Breast cancer screenings and when to get them
Early detection cancer screenings of all types—like mammograms, colonoscopies and pap smears—help keep women healthy. According to the American Cancer Society, they should be a regular part of each woman’s yearly health protocol. Yearly mammograms are suggested for women over age 40. Women at high risk for cancer due to family history or genetics may begin screenings at age 30. This regular cancer screening looks for cancer in people who don’t have symptoms. Mammograms can show breast lumps and tiny calcium clusters in the breast before they can be felt. Of course, not all breast lumps are cancer. Lumps can be fatty cells or cysts, but if any type of lump is detected, your doctor will want to perform additional tests.
Mammograms save lives
In March 2021, a study published in the journal Radiology, found that skipping one scheduled mammogram can greatly increase a person’s risk of death. That’s because if cancer cells go undetected for any length of time, there is a chance they will grow and spread. The data in the study showed that women who participated in regular screenings had higher protection against cancer. It was found that an astonishing 50 percent of women who didn’t have regular mammogram screenings and missed an early diagnosis, died from breast cancer. Routine mammograms give patients the best chance to discover a small invasive cancer before it has spread to other parts of the body. And, when mammograms detect breast cancer early in a localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%.
Keep in mind that mammograms are different from tests your doctor might order if you have symptoms that could be from cancer. If you have a breast lump, swelling, skin or nipple irritation, or changes in the shape of the breast, talk to your doctor right away. Exams and tests will evaluate those particular signs and symptoms.
In the meantime, if you are overdue for your mammogram screening, talk to your healthcare team to schedule one as soon as you can. If you have any questions about breast care, we at Proliance Puyallup Surgeons are always here to help.