No one likes to consider the fact that cancer in any form could be in their future.  As the medical field continues to advance technology, so does the ability to find cancers earlier and increase survival rates dramatically.  The length of time that lapses between screening exams that watch for cancerous changes can mean the difference between a good prognosis and a long road of treatment ahead.

In the fight against breast cancer, mammograms have proven to be a key component in the detection of cancer.  When used in conjunction with regular self-breast examination, or examination by a medical professional, many forms of the disease can be found early—greatly improving the chance of survival and happy, healthy future.  A study conducted by the London Breast Institute proved that women who had a cancer diagnosis within a year or less of a mammogram had a mastectomy rate of less than half when compared to women who waited longer than a year, or who had never had a mammogram at all.

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that looks for any signs of cancer or pre-cancerous changes that may need to be monitored.  Women do not need to find a lump or have other symptoms to have a mammogram and the American Cancer Society recommends that every woman age 40 and over have the procedure every year.

During a mammogram the breast tissue is flattened between two plates of an X-ray machine.  Flattening is necessary in order to produce a clear picture of the tissues inside the breast which can be quite dense and hard to examine otherwise.  Unfortunately, most women complain about this part of the test and fear the occasional pinch or discomfort associated with it.  But not to worry—not every woman finds the test uncomfortable and the X-rays are typically completed in just a few moments.

In one study conducted between 2003 and 2010 40% of those diagnosed with a cancerous tumor of the breast were under the age of 50.  Age, family history and lifestyle factors can all influence your chance of developing breast cancer and being aware of your risk can help you and your doctor decide when you should begin getting screening mammograms.

Overlooking your own health is easy to do when every day is filled with a full schedule.  However ignoring the tests that can help keep you healthy and prevent long term complications won’t help keep you running at your best.  If you are 40 or over and it has been at least a year since your last mammogram, don’t wait to schedule.  If you aren’t sure, pay Dr. Hessel a visit and talk with her about any concerns and you can work together as a team to decide what is best.  If you live in the NYC area, click here to schedule your mammogram now—after all, there’s no time like the present.