Mammograms can help save lives, yet myths surrounding mammograms may prevent some from getting annual screenings, as recommended. Here, we debunk some of those myths.
Mammogram Myth #1: No Family History of Breast Cancer
Myth #1: I don’t need an annual mammogram, because I don’t have a family history of breast cancer.
The truth: Even if you do not have a family history of breast cancer, women should start getting annual mammograms starting at the age of 40. Unfortunately, more than 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history, so it is crucial to get an annual mammogram.
Mammogram Myth #2: I Don’t Notice Any Lumps
Myth #2: I don’t notice any lumps, so I don’t need a mammogram.
The truth: Early detection of cancer is key, and mammograms are our best tools to detect breast cancer early. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mammograms can detect traces of breast cancer up to three years before it can be felt. By the time you notice any lumps, you could have already had breast cancer for a while.
Mammogram Myth #3: The Radiation Can Cause Cancer
Myth #3: The mammogram gives off unsafe levels of radiation and can cause cancer.
The truth: Mammograms give off a very small amount of radiation and do not cause cancer. Getting a mammogram is similar to getting an x-ray – an extremely low level of radiation is used. In fact, our world contains radiation all around us, called background radiation. A mammogram gives off a tiny fraction of this everyday radiation, so there’s no need to worry. Also, mammography is highly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, Mammography Quality and Standards Act and other governing organizations.
Mammogram Myth #4: Mammograms are Painful
Myth #4: Getting a mammogram is painful.
The truth: Mammograms are uncomfortable, but they are not painful. The compression involved is usually described as temporary discomfort. These few moments of unpleasantness are worth knowing you are cancer-free or are catching it early.
Mammogram Myth #5: Mammograms Aren’t Accurate
Myth #5: Mammograms are inaccurate and don’t help.
The truth: Like most things, mammograms are not 100% accurate, but they are the best tool to catch breast cancer early. Mammograms have 80% accuracy in detecting cancer when it is present. Getting regular screenings increase the accuracy even further. Even if you get a positive mammogram, further testing will be done to confirm the results of the mammogram.
Mammogram Myth #6: I’m Too Young for a Mammogram
Myth #6: I don’t need a mammogram until I’m much older.
The truth: Your risk for breast cancer increases as you age, so it is recommended to start annual mammograms at 40. About 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year are ages 45 or older. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend starting annual mammograms earlier than 40. According to the American Cancer Society, early-stage breast cancer has a five-year survival rate of 99%. Later-stage cancer has a survival rate of 27%. Again, early detection is key!
Mammogram Myth #7: Mammograms are Expensive
Myth #6: Mammograms are expensive.
The truth: Mammograms are covered with most insurers. They are classified as preventative care, so most of the time it’s completely covered or mostly covered with a copay. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides resources for low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women to receive screenings.
Questions About Mammograms?
Detecting breast cancer earlier can increase survival rates and lead to aggressive treatment. The doctors here at Cherokee Women’s Health are experts in women’s health. If you have more questions about mammograms or breast cancer, please call us at 770.720.7733 or schedule an appointment online.