Recent studies have shown annual mammograms performed before any symptoms are present have helped to lower death rates from breast cancer by nearly 30 percent.
For women over age 40, or those with family or personal history of cancer, the importance of getting an annual mammogram cannot be understated. A mammogram may seem like simple imaging of the breast, but it can help to detect cancerous masses as much as two years before the tumor can be felt manually by your physician.
In order to ensure mammograms are available to as many women as possible, Kettering Health Breast Centers are located throughout the Miami Valley. “By having the centers spread throughout the city, we’re helping to give underserved areas more access to care,” said Meghan Musser, DO, Kettering Health radiologist and medical director for Kettering Health Breast Centers. “We want to try to ensure everyone has the same access.”
The latest advances in breast exams
State-of-the-art technology is also a vital part of early detection. For many years, the two-dimensional mammogram was the standard of care and did a good job of helping to identify cancer in its early stages.
However, for dense breast tissue, the test is sometimes inconclusive and requires further, more-invasive examinations to separate normal, compressed tissue from abnormal masses. The 3D mammogram has greatly improved the radiologist’s visibility and can help avoid other tests.
A 3D mammogram (breast tomosynthesis) combines multiple X-rays into a single, 3D image of the breast. “The 3D exam helps the radiologist gain a clearer picture to better evaluate the breast tissue,” said Dr. Musser. “The mammogram experience is the same for the patient, but the imaging helps to better separate normal tissue from abnormalities by showing it in multiple slices.”
All 14 Kettering Health Breast Centers locations offer 3D mammography. While most insurance companies now cover 3D mammograms, it’s always best to call your insurance before your appointment to find out.
Making the mammogram a positive experience
In addition to advanced imaging technology, Kettering Health Breast Centers are also making it easier for women to overcome some of the concerns they typically have about mammograms. Studies show that, by stimulating two or more senses simultaneously, a patient can be distracted from the perceived discomfort, pain and anxiety of a mammogram.
To help reduce anxiety, for example, each of the new mammography units comes with a sensory suite, which plays relaxing music and shows calming images from nature while women get their mammogram. A scent diffuser also introduces a calming fragrance.
Gentle, rounded corners on contact surfaces of the imaging equipment and comfortable armrests all assist in keeping the breast muscles relaxed and simplifying compressions and positioning. This reduces tension and discomfort.
There is even something to help alleviate the fear of pain from the compression, which is one of the most common fears preventing women from getting their mammogram. New units offer a remote-control device you can hold during the test that allows you, under the guidance of the technologist, to control the degree of compression.
“We are providing state-of-the-art care at all of our centers, now that we have 3D in more locations. With the addition of the sensory suites, you can have a new experience unavailable anywhere else,” Dr. Musser said. “I would absolutely encourage every woman who is 40 and older to get the test done every year. Our goal is to find cancer at the smallest size and at the earliest stage, to provide patients with the least-invasive surgery options and enable them to move on with their lives.”
For more information or to schedule your mammogram, visit ketteringhealth.org/iwill