SCAN Club Issue 4 2023

Is Your Reason for Putting Off a Mammogram Putting You at Risk Instead?

The facts are clear. Women who have regular mammograms are less likely to need surgery to remove a breast or to need chemotherapy and more likely to be cured. And now, thanks to mammograms and state-of-the-art cancer treatment, most women with early breast cancer are expected to be long-term survivors. And yet, some women still put off getting a mammogram. Let’s look at the reasons—and see why these excuses just don’t add up.

A senior woman visits her primary care physician.

“I do regular breast self-exams.”

Breast cancer experts say that while you may notice a lump or other change in your breast with a self-exam, a mammogram can detect cancer even earlier—before there are any noticeable symptoms. This early stage is when cancer is easiest to treat. Self-exams are still important. They can help you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your doctor if there are any changes. But self-exams should be done in addition to regular mammograms.

“I have small (or large) breasts.”

There is no evidence that a woman’s breast size plays a role in her cancer risk. While size doesn’t make a difference, having dense breasts can. Ask your doctor if you have dense breasts and, if you do, what other steps you may need to take.

“I’m afraid it’ll be too uncomfortable.”

If you mean uncomfortable because you don’t want to show your breasts, don’t worry. You are given a robe to wear, and the staff is careful to keep you covered. You only expose one breast at a time and only when the X-ray is being taken. If you mean uncomfortable physically, it can be for some women. But again, only for the seconds the X-rays are being taken.

“No one in my family has had breast cancer.”

Having a family history of cancer is only one risk factor. Smoking and using other tobacco products, leading a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and drinking unhealthy amounts of alcohol all up your risk for developing breast cancer. But even women who don’t have any of these risk factors can still get breast cancer.

“I don’t need to worry about getting breast cancer at my age.”

According to the American Cancer Society, the older a woman is, the more likely she is to get breast cancer. Rates for breast cancer begin to rise after age 40 and are highest in women over age 70. So, early detection is even more important as you age. Don’t put yourself at risk for breast cancer. If you’re due for a mammogram, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment right away.

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