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Mammography Day Highlights Breast Cancer Screening Benefits

October 12, 2010

Early Detection Improves Treatment Options

Conflicting reports about the benefits of mammograms and when to get them may have some women confused. How effective is the breast cancer screening? Should you start at age 40 or 50? How often should you get one?

October 15 is National Mammography Day, held each year to raise awareness about the benefits of mammograms in fighting breast cancer. The observance is part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"Mammograms help us detect breast cancer earlier," said Dr. Mimi Lin, a diagnostic radiologist and director of Mammography at the Washington Outpatient Imaging Center at Washington Hospital. "Early detection leads to better treatment options and improves survival rates."

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in one or both of the breasts. There are different types of breast cancer, and some are much more aggressive than others, according to Lin.

"These aggressive cancers can develop quickly," she said. "But if we find it before it has a chance to spread beyond the breasts, treatment is much easier and more effective."

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray that can detect changes in the breast. Since their introduction in the 1980s, mammograms have helped to reduce breast cancer deaths by 30 percent, according to Lin.

That’s why many women may have been confused when the controversial guidelines were issued last year suggesting routine mammograms should start at age 50 instead of age 40 as previously recommended. Major medical organizations and advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Radiology, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, have rejected the new guidelines.

Annual Mammograms at Age 40

"We are continuing to encourage women to get routine annual mammograms starting at age 40," Lin said. "Last year, 28 percent of breast cancer cases diagnosed at Washington Hospital were in women in their 40s. That tells me mammograms are important for that age group. Mammograms are definitely effective for our local population."

Under the new federal healthcare regulations, insurance companies are being required to cover more preventive screenings. Lin said women should talk to their insurance companies to see how the new regulations will affect their mammography coverage.

The Washington Women’s Center offers state-of-the art digital mammograms. The Center is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and is the only nationally accredited breast center in Northern California offering comprehensive breast health care that includes the latest in diagnostic and treatment services as well as education and support.

"The Women’s Center is a very warm and welcoming place," Lin said. "Mammograms don’t have to be a scary experience. We want women to feel comfortable so they will get their annual mammograms."
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Come to Washington Hospital’s Think Pink Event on October 14

You can get your questions about mammograms and other breast health issues answered at Washington Hospital’s Think Pink breast health awareness event on Thursday, October 14, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. It will be held in the Tent Atrium at Washington West, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. To register online, go to www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.

The free event will feature a number of booths with information and resources on a variety of topics, including mammograms, risk assessment, and breast care services available at Washington Hospital and in the community. The evening includes three free seminars, yoga demonstrations, giveaways, and more. For more information about the Washington Women’s Center and breast health services offered by Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.