Why are mammograms so important?

Women have heard for years that when you reach the age of 40, you need to start getting a mammogram. Many women, though, may not have heard the “why” behind that mantra.

As women age, they have an increased risk of developing growths in the breast, such as fibroids, cysts and cancer. You’ve probably heard that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime and that breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women.

Those are facts that sound scary—but they don’t have to. The good news is, a mammogram can show changes in the breast up to two years before a doctor or patient can feel them. Finding breast cancer early reduces the risk of dying from the disease by a whopping 25 to 30 percent. One reason is because the cancer has less time to spread.

Advances in mammography screening have improved even further the ability of doctors to accurately detect breast cancer in its early stages. New 3-D mammography technology—available at all Prisma Health mammography locations—gives doctors a more detailed picture of the breast tissue and reduces the chances of a false positive (an abnormality that looks like a cancer, but turns out to be normal) or a false negative (when normal breast tissue hides a breast cancer so that it doesn’t show up on a traditional mammogram).

Just because breast cancer has never run in your family doesn’t mean you can’t get it—85 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of the disease.

The No. 1 risk factor for developing breast cancer is simply being a woman (although men can develop it, too), and right behind that is growing older. So if you’re a woman who has passed her 40th birthday and you haven’t had a mammogram, don’t put it off any longer. You can easily schedule one if you have a MyChart account, or if you don’t, you can call (864) 522-9729 to schedule a mammogram at a location convenient to you.



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