I love getting together with my girlfriends and just talking. It's the best because I feel like we can talk about everything. From stuff that happened all the way back in high school, our kids not sleeping through the night, to our boobs. Nothing is off limits.
On a recent wine and dinner night out, we started talking about mammograms. I was shocked to hear that one of my girlfriends was about to be 42 and had never had a mammogram. The questioning started immediately: Why?
Turns out she was scared. Her mom had told her that mammograms hurt, the rooms were cold, and since she didn't have a family history, she didn't think she needed to get one so soon. WRONG!!!
You might have seen in the news that guidelines for mammograms have changed, which can add even more confusion to what women need to know about screening for breast cancer. So I checked in with Dr. Jennifer Manders, a board-certified and fellowship-trained breast surgeon at The Christ Hospital Health Network, to sort out what these changes mean.
New guidance on starting mammograms at age 40
Dr. Manders let me know that these new mammogram guidelines are coming from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPST). The agency now recommends that women at average risk of breast cancer start getting mammograms at age 40. That's down a full decade from their old guidance to start age 50.
The reason this changed is because the USPST found there is data suggesting that more cases of breast cancer could be caught early by starting screenings at age 40. The group found these earlier screenings are especially important for Black women, who may be more likely to get aggressive cancers at younger ages.
Now you might be asking, Fritch, I thought we always started mammograms at 40?? Turns out there are several agencies that make recommendations, and the USPST is now more in line with other guidance, like from the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology.
And Dr. Manders stresses that for all women, cancers that are found early are much easier to treat and are more likely to be cured than those found at a later stage. By starting mammography earlier, we have a better chance of finding cancers sooner.
Introducing a fully renovated Comprehensive Breast Center
And if you're turning 40 or simply have been putting off getting your mammogram, here's another great reason to take that time for your health. The Christ Hospital just opened a fully renovated Comprehensive Breast Center on its main campus in Mt. Auburn, right near downtown Cincinnati.
This new state of the art Center offers patients a soothing ambiance and increased privacy – almost like going to a spa. There are spacious rooms which allow easier access for patients.
And whether you go to Mt. Auburn or one their six other locations for your mammogram, you're going to get a digital, 3D mammogram that makes it easier for doctors to catch breast cancer earlier. And it only takes about 15 minutes so can't even say you don't have time for it!
Often patients seem to think that pain is associated with mammograms, but that's not the case for everyone. The process is easier than you think. After you check in, a technologist will call you back into the center to a private changing room and gowned waiting area. From there, you will be taken to the mammo room and the images will be performed.
While there is a need to compress the breast tissue for mammography, the amount of discomfort is minimal and only lasts for a few seconds. Although the experience may be anxiety provoking for some, it is completely worthwhile and is better than avoidance and late diagnosis.
First mammogram or overdue for your annual screening? You can schedule online at one of The Christ Hospital's seven breast imaging centers or call us at 513-585-2668.