Today, medical experts and researchers agree that a mammogram is one of the best ways to identify the early signs of breast cancer. It is an early screening method that is used by your Houston OB/GYN, and is a standard part of a well woman exam for many women.
October is not only Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it's also the month in which National Mammography Day occurs. This day seeks to raise awareness about the importance of mammograms, which are a low-dose X-ray procedure that can identify lumps or masses in the breasts. Mammograms are a critical part of any woman's preventative health care plan. But how do you know if you need a mammogram?
Look for the Signs
- You are age 40 or older. For women without a family history or without any signs or symptoms of breast cancer, the recommended age for a first mammogram is between age 40 and 45. Many OB/GYNs recommend that women schedule an annual mammogram between the ages of 40 and 50. During that time, if a woman does not have an abnormal screening, then she may be eligible to go for mammograms every other year rather than annually.
- You have felt an abnormal lump in your breast during a self-exam. Women are encouraged to perform self-breast exams on a regular basis throughout their adult life. Even a young woman may find a lump in her breast. Any woman who finds an abnormal lump should schedule a well woman exam and have the Houston OB/GYN perform a breast exam to determine if a mammogram is necessary. It should be noted that dense tissue can occur just before or after a woman's menstrual cycle, and plugged ducts and swollen breast tissue are common while a woman is breastfeeding.
- You are experiencing mild to severe breast pain. Breast pain is not normal, and any type of breast pain that occurs on a regular basis should be reported to your Houston OB/GYN during a well woman exam. Your OB/GYN can help you determine if a mammogram is the next best step for you.
- You have noticed dimpling on the breast or a change in nipple appearance. Women who are not nursing should not notice a change in the appearance of their nipples, nor should they have any discharge. These signs and symptoms should be reported to your OB/GYN should they occur. In addition, dimpling of the breast can be an early — and often discreet — sign of breast cancer.
What to Expect
Unfortunately, many women avoid going to their Houston OB/GYN to get a mammogram performed because they are nervous about the actual procedure. It's important to remember that while a mammogram may feel temporary uncomfortable, it will not be a painful procedure.
During a mammogram, the breast is flattened on a plate in order to get an X-ray image of the breast tissue. Many women describe a mammogram as causing pressure, but not pain. While there is some discomfort, it's critical that women remember how important this early detection screening is. In many cases, a mammogram can identify a lump in the breast up to three years prior to a woman being able to feel it during a self-breast exam. It is one of the best ways to detect breast cancer early, which significantly increases the success rate of any cancer treatment options that may be necessary.
To learn more about the mammogram procedure and to find out if you should make an appointment for one, schedule a well woman exam with your Houston OB/GYN today. Contact our office now to make your appointment.