Fall brings cooler temperatures, the beginning of a new school year, pumpkin-flavored treats galore and the return of football season. Along with these fall favorites, October brings a sea of pink, marking the arrival of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink appears everywhere, from the grocery store to the NFL football field.
Many organizations have aided in breast cancer research, advocacy and education, and Solis Mammography, the nation’s largest independent provider of breast screening services, applauds this important work. Since 1982, the pink ribbon has been associated with breast cancer awareness and has made it acceptable for men and women to talk more openly about women’s breast health.
With the rise in advocacy and awareness, still very little is reported on mammography during the month of October. Per the American Cancer Society, mammography is the “single, most effective method of early detection in the fight against breast cancer.” Mammograms can detect breast health concerns long before any physical symptoms, such as lumps, become apparent to a woman performing a self-exam or even to a trained physician conducting a manual exam. Annual mammography provides women the opportunity to find any issue at its earliest possible stage, thus reducing the cost, invasiveness and anxiety associated with later stage diagnosis.
And yet, the sad reality is that almost half of insurance-carrying American women, do not get their annual mammogram. This is especially concerning since, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, 2-D mammography is covered 100 percent by nearly all insurance plans. Additionally, Medicare and nearly all of the major private insurers are now also covering 3-D mammography at 100 percent.
With more than 700,000 procedures forecasted this year, Solis Mammography emphasizes October as a time to remind women to be proactive about their breast health. “Simply put, mammography is the closest thing we have to a cure. The difference between early stage diagnosis, which is caught in annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40, and later stage diagnosis is astonishing. Just imagine catching an anomaly at the size of a pea versus the size of a walnut,” said Connie Oliver, vice president of marketing for Solis Mammography.
Since football is in the air, and because Solis Mammography is steadfast in its belief that the best offense in the fight against breast cancer is a great defense (early detection), they created a Breast Health Playbook.
Breast Health Playbook – Facts To Know Before You Go:
COACH YOURSELF AND OTHER TEAMMATES:
- Know the difference between 2-D and 3-D mammography. While conventional 2-D mammography was a significant step forward for its time, it has been dramatically surpassed by the improved technology of 3-D mammography (also known as digital breast tomosynthesis.) It is the best and most advanced technology for early detection of breast cancer. In 2013, peer-reviewed research, co-authored by Solis Mammography’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Rose, demonstrated that 3-D mammography increases early detection of breast cancer by 54 percent and decreases recall rates by 37 percent.
- Women should check their insurance plan for 3-D mammography coverage. While Medicare and most private insurance companies now cover 3-D, be sure to ask and make sure. Also, regardless which provider you choose, make sure they offer 3-D mammography screening.
- If visiting a new facility, have previous mammography scans sent to them. The films are electronic, and this should be an easy process. At Solis Mammography, they’ll retrieve the records for you, upon request.
- While health is important year-round, October is a time to take stock of friends and loved ones – especially those who might be reticent to get their mammogram. Encourage them to get their screening; offer to go with them; and help them understand the benefits of early detection.
- A mammogram in not just a mammogram. In the search for the right provider (because patients DO have a choice), find a facility that is a dedicated to breast screening. Make sure the center is staffed by fellowship-trained or dedicated breast radiologists (radiologists who read a high volume of both screening and diagnostic mammograms). Also ask if they employ “batch reading” (a process of interpreting screening mammograms without interruption, ensuring the most accurate results.) And finally, ask if the radiologist is trained and experienced at reading 3-D mammography.
- For any exam, it is best to arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time to prepare. Patients should bring their insurance cards, driver’s license and the name of the physician to whom results should be sent.
- Ask the facility when and how patients will be notified of their results. Solis Mammography understands the anxiety that often accompanies waiting for the mammogram result which is why they deliver results via secure email within 24 to 48 hours of your visit.
- Solis Mammography recommends women wear a two-piece outfit on the day of their mammogram, as they will be asked to remove their top garments only. The facility will provide women with a wrap or robe to wear.
- On the day of the appointment, don’t wear deodorant, antiperspirant, lotion, or perfume. Some of these items contain substances that can show up on the X-ray as white spots. It is recommended for patients to bring these items with them to put on after the mammogram.
- Remember, a strong defense is the best offense in the fight against breast cancer. When a woman participates in her breast health by getting regular, annual mammograms, she ensures that should any issue ever be detected, it will be at its smallest possible size and thus easiest to treat. The average size of an anomaly found through annual mammograms is the size of a pea. The average size of an anomaly found through occasional self-exam is the size of a walnut. This size difference can and does have a dramatic impact on both treatment options, cost, and long-term outcome.
This October, Solis Mammography wants to create a movement of action and invites everyone to be proactive in their individual quest for breast health. Women need to not only get their own mammogram every year beginning at age 40, but also talk to friends, family, and loved ones to encourage them to do the same. If patients and providers alike do their job with mammogram awareness, then wellness and prevention in breast health will outpace the need for invasive healthcare treatment. Together, we can turn Team Awareness into Team Action and score significant strides in the fight for breast health.