October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, as you well know by now. There are a ton of great articles out there on how to support those who are currently or have suffered the disease. We use this month to recognize and celebrate those who have survive, and we mourn those who we have lost along the way. But what about awareness? We also need to take some time to reflect on ourselves and our own health, and make sure we take the steps necessary to detect breast cancer as early as we can. However, when thinking of getting a mammogram thoughts of having our precious melons squished in a skull crushing vice tend to come to mind. Scary, right? Well, I’m just going to be honest and let you know that while your boob will not explode or be completely flattened, the procedure is not comfortable either. The discomfort, though, is usually not the only thought or question on our minds when thinking of getting a mammogram.
I decided to ask some real women what questions came to mind when thinking of getting a mammogram, and answering them here for you. Hopefully this helps to answer some questions you may have been asking as well.
- How small is too small? asked by Maegan ~ There’s no such thing as TOO SMALL when it comes to getting a mammogram. A good technician will get it done. Keep in mind, no matter what size of the breast there is always going to be a small portion of the breast that will not be screened when doing a mammogram, which is the area between your chest wall and the film. Also, no matter what the size of your breasts, the mammogram will be uncomfortable but shouldn’t cause you great pain. If it does alert your tech at once and have them adjust.
- What is the “real” age a woman should get a mammogram? asked by Cathy ~ About 98% of sites seem to agree that 40 is the magic age to start getting mammograms. That also seems to be the magic age where insurance companies will start paying for them. Here’s a little tidbit a doctor once told me. (Keep in mind I have military insurance) “With the history your family has with not only breast cancer, but the other various cancers as well, I think it’s very important that you get a mammogram. However we both know that since you’re not yet 40 we can’t just schedule you for one. But if you think you feel a lump *cough cough hint hint* then I surely won’t second guess you and deem it necessary that you have a mammogram done immediately.” My suggestion? If you want one bad enough, talk to your doctor about it.
- Which is better for larger breasts, a mammogram or ultrasound? asked by adramatcmommy ~ Mammograms, currently, are the top pic for larger breasted women because of the fatty tissues. This can interfere with the reading.
- I once heard about a breast cancer screening test that involved breast milk. What ever happened to that? asked by Rory ~ University of Massachusetts Amherst collected 250 samples of breast milk from women, who also underwent a breast biopsy. The researchers isolated certain cells in the breast milk that were prone to cancer, and then isolated genes in the milk to determine if there was possible cancer developement. They found the isolated cancer prone cells, along with certain genes, were found in women who were later diagnosed with breast cancer. Scientist say that this discovery could lead to a screening that could possibly cover over 80% of the female population.
- Can breastfeeding women get them [mammograms] or will it turn my baby’s food into kryptonite? asked by Some Day I’ll Learn ~ Breastfeeding women can still get mammograms, as an x-ray does not effect your breast milk. However, the results may not be as accurate due to the density of the breast.
- I worry about the radiation being concentrated into the breast tissue. Is there an alternative to radiation? asked by Laura ~ Yes, there is! One option is having a breast ultrasound done. These are good at detecting solid masses from fluid filled cysts. There is also the option to have a breast thermography done. This is done by using infrared sensors to detect increased vascularity as the byproduct of biochemical reactions.
- Are there free options around the country? asked by Muffin Tin Mom ~ Somee states and local health facilities offer free, or low cost, mammograms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an early detection program that provides screening services, to include clinical breast exams and mammograms to uninsured or low income women throughout the United States. To find out if there is a local program near you visit the CDC’s website at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/cancercontacts/nbccedp/contacts.asp or call them at 1-800-232-4636