An Hour That Could Impact a Lifetime

October 1, 2020

How an annual mammogram could save your life

By Susan Lee, MD Rutherford Regional Health System/Rutherford Women’s Premier Care 

Our daily schedules can be tough to juggle. Especially when there is that “one more thing” to try and fit in. Especially now, when we have a new set of COVID-19-related challenges to navigate, like video work calls, shifting school schedules and more. But if you’re a woman age 40 or older, there’s one extra thing you should make time for – an annual mammogram. It’s one hour, once a year that could save your life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the U.S., and approximately 42,000 women die from the disease annually. Most breast cancer cases happen in women 50 and older, but younger women are not immune. In fact, about 11 percent of new U.S. cases occur in women younger than 45. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among all women and the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women, with Black women having a higher rate of death form breast cancer than white women.

A mammogram is a simple, routine screening – about one hour, once a year – that helps detect breast cancer earlier than waiting for symptoms to appear. It is an important annual exam because early detection of breast cancer is key in fighting it. Some women with breast cancer have no risk factors and no medical history of it, and some women don’t have any symptoms at all. A mammogram can detect breast cancer before symptoms show. That early detection can make for an easier and more effective treatment if cancer is discovered during the screening.

Annual mammograms are recommended for women 40 and older, but if you are at higher risk, you may need to begin annual screenings sooner. Some risk factors include genetic mutations, having dense breasts, certain reproductive histories, being overweight after menopause, a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, a personal history of radiation therapy or hormone replacement therapy, a history with the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) and a lack of physical activity.

It’s a good idea to talk with your provider about your risks and ask about the best time for you to begin scheduling mammograms.

In addition to annual mammograms for early detection, there are some simple things you can do on your own to help lower your risk for breast cancer, including regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, limited alcohol intake and avoidance of chemicals that can cause cancer.

If you haven’t scheduled your annual mammogram yet or are ready to schedule your first, now is a great time to do so. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a good opportunity to brush up on what you know about this disease and what you can do to help fight it – including mammograms.

And while healthcare during COVID-19 may look and feel a little different, you can be assured that Rutherford Regional Health System is taking extra steps to ensure a safe environment for your visit.