What you need to know about Mammograms

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Dr. Karen Wash, Diagnostic Radiologist and lead breast interpreting physician for CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, discusses overcoming fears associated with mammograms, 3D mammograms, and the latest statistics related to breast cancer.

Compression Pain
Many women put off mammograms because of the discomfort involved in the screening. There may be a bit of pain during compression, but it only lasts a few seconds and the benefits far outweigh the few seconds of discomfort.

The best time to get a mammogram for women who are still menstruating is one week after the menstrual cycle starts. That is when the breasts are least tender. Women can also take a pain reliever like Tylenol an hour before the screening to help reduce pain.

Radiation Exposure
The amount of radiation exposure from a mammogram is minimal (.4 mSv).

We are exposed to a certain amount of background radiation in our environment on a daily basis. Radiation from a mammogram is equivalent to about seven weeks worth of daily exposure.

Overcoming the Fear of an Abnormal Finding
Many women are fearful that something may be found during a mammogram, and that alone prevents them from getting screened. However, the best time to find a tumor is when it is very small and before it can be felt. Mammograms are the best way to detect cancer tumor that can’t be felt. The earlier and smaller you find the cancer, the more treatable it is and in most cases the less extensive the treatment.
wash with mammoScreening Mammograms versus  Diagnostic Mammograms
If you are having a screening mammogram, you do not need to have a physician’s referral. A diagnostic mammogram, however does require a referral. A screening mammogram is for women who do not have any breast problems or breast symptoms. A diagnostic mammogram is used when there is a breast problem or as a follow up to an abnormal screening mammogram. In a diagnostic mammogram the radiologist tailors the images specifically to the breast problem.

2D versus 3D Mammograms
Traditional 2D mammograms involve four views, two views of each breast. 3D mammograms take multiple pictures of the breast. It takes images in slices that are about  on millimeter thick and provides the radiologist a more detailed look inside the breast. The risk of diagnosing a false positive is also reduced with 3D mammography.

Most Recent Trends
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in the course of ther lifetime.  Research from the American Cancer Society estimates  250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. By 2020, it is projected 319,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed which is a 9 percent increase from 2015.

Scheduling your Mammogram
If you’d need more information or would like to schedule a mammogram, visit www.christussantarosa.org/breastcare or call 830-606-2188.

About CHRISTUS Santa Rosa

CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System was founded in 1869 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. The sisters heeded the call from the Catholic bishop of Texas to care for the multitude of sick, infirm, and orphaned in the Texas frontier. When the sisters arrived in San Antonio, the population was only 12,000 and there was no public hospital - until the sisters founded CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital.

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