Early detection, yearly mammograms increase chances of breast cancer survival
October 10, 2015
Craig — About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common cancer among American women after skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
However five-year survival rates for women diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer are about 98 percent, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which means getting your yearly mammogram could save your life.
"As with any cancer, early detection is the key," said Dr. Scott Ellis, obstetrician and gynecologist at The Memorial Hospital. "I think women that have survived cancer will tell you that getting that mammogram or going in immediately when they found that lump made the difference in whether or not they survived."
The ACS recommends women get a mammogram every year once they turn 40, and those with increased risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer, start even younger.
In April, TMH began using a new digital mammography machine purchased with the help of the TMH Foundation. The machine offers 3-dimensional capabilities, which were recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but have not yet been put into use.
"This technology takes multiple pictures at different angles through the breast and allows us to see through dense breast tissue better than standard mammography," said Dr. Malaika Thompson, lead mammography-interpreting physician at TMH. "(We) still have a couple more steps before we can use it regularly, but we are getting quite close and it will be available soon."
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Even without the 3-D feature, the new machine offers sharper, clearer images, a low-dose radiation feature and some patients report it causes less discomfort, said TMH Nurse Navigator Jackie Smith.
"There's a lot of women that have fears about radiation and this is less radiation," said TMH mammographer Melissa Goldsmith.
The new machine has also reduced the number of women that get called back for further screening and testing. Whereas the hospital used to call back about one in every 10 women, now it only calls back only one in 12.
The hospital does about 1,000 mammograms per year. Through September of this year, 19 women who were screened at TMH have had to get biopsies and six have been positive for breast cancer.
Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the hospital is offering $80 mammograms and giving out roses and candy to every woman who comes in for a mammogram.
"When you think about it, you're trying to catch something that's growing microscopically, so would you really want to wait two years?" Goldsmith said.
Smith has personal experience with breast cancer, having been diagnosed with it after missing her mammogram one year at age 47. She now uses her experience to help guide and support other women through the process of screenings and for those who end up being diagnosed, through their treatment.
TMH is inviting all breast cancer survivors to a free survivor luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 21 at the hospital.