Screen out mammogram myths to stay healthy

Breast cancer is one of the leading cancers afflicting women worldwide. According to BreastCancer.org, in 2018, an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 63,960 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States. Women want to do whatever possible to avoid breast cancer or detect it early. Mammograms have long been an important tool in women’s fight against breast cancer.

But for as long as mammograms have been recommended, myths have prevailed concerning the procedure and its benefits and risks. Learning to distinguish between mammogram myths and facts can help women recognize the importance of these effective screenings. Myth: I’m too young for a mammogram.

Fact: A yearly mammogram is recommended for women age 40 and older to help detect breast cancer early. This may lead to less aggressive treatment and a higher rate of survival. Myth: I don’t need an annual mammogram because I have no symptoms or family history.

Fact: The American College of Radiology recommends annual screening mammograms regardless of symptoms or family history. Early-stage breast cancers may not exhibit symptoms. Women whose breast cancer is caught in its earliest stages have a five-year survival rate of 99 percent. Myth: I have breast implants so I can’t get screened.

Fact: Women with breast implants can still have regular mammograms. Special positioning and additional images may be needed, but the procedure is possible. Myth: Mammograms are ineffective.

Fact: According to British Columbia Cancer Screening, mammograms are the gold standard for detecting breast cancer early. Mammograms may detect breast cancer two to three years before a woman or a health care provider can feel lumps. Myth: Mammograms are foolproof.

Fact: Mammogram screenings are not perfect and are just one tool in helping to detect cancer. Age or breast density can influence the appearance of breast tissue on mammograms. It’s important to note that the inherent qualities of the cancer and how it responds to treatment can affect outcome even if the breast cancer is detected earlier, offers Johns Hopkins Medicine. Myth: Mammograms are the only imaging tools.

Fact: Breast MRI, breast ultrasound, and newer 3-D breast mammography are alternative imaging methods that can help obtain different views of breast tissue, particularly for women with dense breasts. Myth: I can’t get a mammogram without a prescription.

Fact: In many cases, women do not need a doctor’s order or prescription to get a screening mammogram. Individuals can self-refer for an annual appointment. Mammograms can detect breast cancer early, dramatically improving women’s chances of beating the disease. Learning the facts about mammograms can help women calm any concerns they may have regarding these valuable screenings.