Screening Mammograms have proven to be essential for the early detection of breast cancer. It’s important to understand that breast cancer is currently the second most common cancer found in women throughout the United States. While the symptoms of breast cancer can sometimes be difficult to detect, receiving regular screening mammograms substantially increases the likelihood that breast cancer is caught at an early stage, which increases the effectiveness of treatment and bolsters the chances of survival and cure. 

What Is A Screening Mammogram?

A mammogram is an examination that uses a special low dose X-Ray machine to evaluate breast tissue. The mammogram unit is designed specifically for breast imaging. It hugs the breasts with gentle pressure and produces 2D and 3D images at different angles. The goal of the examination is to evaluate for any signs of breast cancer, including masses, calcifications, and enlarged or atypical lymph nodes. Often, these abnormalities cannot be seen or felt during a routine examination by your doctor or by a self-examination. 

There are two types of mammograms a patient may have: Screening or Diagnostic. Screening mammograms are recommended for people who meet certain age criteria and for people who are asymptomatic. Diagnostic mammograms are similar to screening examinations but include additional views and typically focus more on areas of concern. Screening mammograms are performed on both breasts. Diagnostic mammograms may be performed unilaterally or bilaterally depending on the pathology being evaluated.

When You Should Start Having Screening Mammograms?

Screening mammograms are universally recommended for women starting at age 40 and should continue as long as there is a reasonable expectation of living 10 or more years. If patients are at high risk for breast cancer, screening may be warranted earlier. High-risk patients include those with a strong family history of breast cancer, who have the BRCA gene, or anyone who has had breast abnormalities in the past. Your primary care provider or gynecologist can help determine if screening mammograms at an earlier age may be useful based on your medical history.

It’s important to note that most insurance carriers, including Medicare, cover annual screening mammograms for women at NO cost to the patient as long as they meet the age criteria set forth from the carrier. Generally, women ages 40 and older can receive an annual screening mammogram at no cost. Women between the ages of 35-39 can receive a single screening mammogram to establish a baseline at no cost. If there is any question regarding coverage, patients should call their health insurance carrier’s customer service phone number or refer to their coverage documents.

Are Screening Mammograms Risky?

Screening mammograms are an essential part of breast health, especially for women over the age of 40. NOT having routine screening mammograms places patients at a much higher risk of developing and diagnosing breast cancer at a later stage, which dramatically decreases the survival rate and possibility of cure. The risk in a routine mammogram itself lies in the small amount of radiation the machine uses to produce images. With that being said, the typical radiation dose for a screening mammogram is roughly 0.4 millisieverts. To put that in perspective, the average person receives a dose of roughly 3.0 millisieverts each year from natural background sources of radiation. While there is no safe dose of radiation, decades of research has determined that the likelihood of developing abnormalities from radiation is tied to the dose received and frequency of exposure. Mammograms are considered safe and produce a comparatively low dose of radiation. 

Do Mammograms Hurt?

Mammograms are performed using a special X-Ray machine that is tailored to the breast. For this reason, mammograms are often performed with little to no pain. In fact, The Radiology Clinic utilizes Hologic SmartCurve technology. SmartCurve uses hardware and software modifications to compress the breast only to what is necessary for diagnosis and physically conforms better to the breast than standard compression paddles. 

In addition to hardware and software options on the mammography machine, the provider who is performing the examination has a greater deal of control over the compression and general experience for the patient. Skilled and experienced practitioners can determine just the right amount of compression/pressure needed to obtain high-quality imaging without causing the patient pain. 

While mammograms can sometimes not be comfortable, there are plenty of factors that can increase the comfort for the patient. The Radiology Clinic has them all!

Are Screening Mammograms Effective?

Mammography breast screenings are proven to be effective in the early diagnosis of breast cancer and have been accepted by the medical community as the gold standard of breast cancer screening. It is estimated that the use of mammograms has reduced breast cancer deaths by 49%. Breast cancer treatment is significantly more effective when the cancer is caught at an early stage and before it has spread to other areas of the body. In fact, it is estimated that early detection of breast cancer increases the 5-year survival rate to 93% or higher depending on the situation. 

Why Choose The Radiology Clinic?

Plenty of radiology practices offer mammograms, but few of them have the expertise and technological investments that The Radiology Clinic possesses. At The Radiology Clinic, you can be guaranteed a high-quality mammogram that is read by a fellowship-trained, board-certified radiologist that specializes 100% in breast imaging. NO mammograms are read by general radiologists at The Radiology Clinic. We understand how important breast health is, and we stand behind our community with quality and integrity. If you need to schedule your mammogram or have questions about your exam, please contact us at 301-217-0500 or email us at info@theradclinic.com.