In recent years, many people have begun to question the value of mammograms, a noninvasive screening that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. While mammograms aren’t always perfect, their importance can’t be understated: your mammogram might save your life.
If you need some convincing that your mammogram is worth 30 minutes of your time and a few moments of discomfort, here are five tips from Emily Albright, MD, a breast surgeon at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgical Oncology at the MU School of Medicine.
Mammograms lower the risk of breast cancer deaths
Mammograms reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer by about 30 percent. Breast cancers detected through mammograms often can’t be felt during a breast self-exam since cancers can grow for up to two years before you feel a lump.
Early stage cancers have more treatment options, including less invasive surgeries. These cancers also have better five-year survival rates. Stage 0 and 1 breast cancers have a survival rate of almost 100 percent according to the American Cancer Society. Even stage 2 breast cancers have a survival rate of 93 percent. These are the types of cancers that mammograms can catch that you may not notice.
Your family history isn’t a good predictor of breast cancer risk
Some women who have no family history of breast cancer might feel like they can skip their mammograms. However, 80 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history at all, according to the American Cancer Society.
Mammograms are safe
Some women worry that the radiation in mammograms may increase their risk for cancer. However, radiation from mammograms use less radiation than chest X-rays and expose you to only about a tenth of the amount of radiation you are exposed to in nature.
No studies report that mammograms increase breast cancer risk. Research places your risk of getting cancer caused by repeated mammograms at less than .001 percent.
Nearly all experts agree on mammogram guidelines
Many medical associations support yearly mammograms starting at age 40. These groups include:
- American Medical Association
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- American College of Radiology
- American Cancer Society
- National Cancer Institute
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network
These organizations recommend mammograms based on many years of research and evidence that mammograms improve breast cancer detection and survival rates.
Mammograms cost little to nothing
Federal law states that mammograms must be covered without a co-pay or deductible. On all private insurance plans, as well as Medicare, mammograms are free.
If you do not have insurance, many community resources can help you pay for mammograms. Your physician or mammography office can help connect you to these resources.