October is breast cancer awareness month, a reminder for women to schedule a routine mammogram. Early detection plays a vital role in the successful treatment of breast cancer.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. SEMC offers full-field digital mammograms to screen for breast cancer and evaluate other breast abnormalities. A mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easiest to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. For this reason, SEMC providers recommend annual mammograms for women beginning at age 40.
- Dress comfortably.
- Avoid wearing deodorant before your mammogram. Particles in powders and deodorants could become visible on your images and cause misdiagnosis.
- Consider taking an over-the-counter pain medication (aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen) about an hour before your mammogram to ease discomfort.
- If possible, schedule your mammogram for a time when your breasts aren’t likely to be tender. For women who haven’t gone through menopause, we recommend an exam the week after your menstrual period.
What to Expect During the Exam
- You will be given a gown and asked to remove any jewelry and clothing from the waist up.
- During the procedure, you will be asked to stand in front of the mammography machine and rest one of your breasts on a platform. The mammography technician will raise or lower this platform to match your height.
- A plate will then gradually apply pressure to your breast, spreading the tissue so that any small abnormalities can be seen. Please stand as still as possible during the imaging process.
- This procedure will be repeated for your second breast. Four images will be taken: one from the top and one from the side of each breast.
- The exam takes approximately 15 minutes.
Are Mammograms Painful?
Some women find mammograms uncomfortable, while others find them painful but tolerable.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
It’s important to remember that different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some don’t have any signs or symptoms at all. A woman may find out she has breast cancer after a routine mammogram, followed by additional testing. If you have concerns or questions, we encourage you to speak with your primary care provider.
Warning signs of breast cancer can include:
- A new lump in the breast or armpit
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or shape of the breast
- Pain in the area of the breast
Getting Your Results
A radiologist will interpret the images, formulate a report and send the results to your provider. Your provider will mail you a letter containing your results.
- Getting older
- Genetic mutations (inherited genes)
- Early menstrual period
- Late or no pregnancy
- Starting menopause after age 55
- Not being physically active
- Being overweight or obese after menopause
- Having dense breasts
- Using combination hormone therapy
- Taking oral contraceptives
- Personal or family history of breast cancer
- Personal history of certain non-cancerous breast diseases
- Previous treatment using radiation therapy
- Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol
- Drinking alcohol
During the month of October, SEMC offers reduced-price screening mammograms for women 40 years and older. Fees are due at the time of the exam. Please note, annual exams are covered by most insurance companies, although we encourage patients to check with their insurance provider for coverage details.
Scheduling an Appointment
A physician order is required for a mammogram screening. For scheduling, please call 507-794-3691. To speak directly with a member of our Radiology team, call 507-794-8469.