Mammograms important to early detection of breast cancer in women, some men | CraigDailyPress.com

Mammograms important to early detection of breast cancer in women, some men

A nurse assists a patient during a mammogram.

CRAIG — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.

According to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation:

• Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.

• Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women.

• Every two minutes, on average, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and one woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.

• More than 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.

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• Though breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and approximately 460 will die of the disease each year.

Early detection through breast self-exams and mammograms can save lives according to Northwest Colorado Health’s Dr. Anna Lundeen:

"I saw a patient for her annual wellness prior to clearing her for a large surgery. We were able to detect super-early breast cancer on her mammogram without a palpable lump or any symptoms,” Lundeen said. “She put off her surgery and had a successful treatment of her breast cancer, minimally invasively. She has fully recovered and was able to move forward with her surgery."

Lundeen answered nine questions about mammograms.

Craig Press: Why are mammograms important?

Dr. Anna Lundeen: Mammograms can catch calcifications or signs of early cancer prior to a palpable lump. This affords women the ability to treat their cancer sooner.

When should women start to get mammograms and how often?

The short answer to this is yearly starting at age 40, but it really depends on your risk. Some guidelines recommend yearly starting at age 50, and some recommend every two years. Starting at age 40, you should have a conversation with your medical provider about your risk and the benefits of screening.

Should men get mammograms?

Men who are genetically at risk for breast cancer because of a genetic mutation or who have a palpable lump should seek advice from their provider and may be offered a mammogram.

Are they painful?

They involve some pressure and some discomfort, but I would not describe them as painful

Are they embarrassing?

Not at all, the staff is all super professional.

Where are they done?

Both UCHealth Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center and Memorial Regional Health hospital are able to do mammograms.

What happens if an abnormality is found, and how often do you find something abnormal?

If there are abnormalities found on your mammogram, most likely, you will require additional views through mammography, as well as an ultrasound to detect an area of concern. If this still is abnormal, you will require a biopsy, usually done in the radiology department through a needle. The pathologist then reviews the cells found on this test and determines if this is benign or malignant.

Mammograms are one screening of many that are part of the Northwest Colorado Health Women's Wellness Connection program. Would you briefly explain why the other screenings are also important?

I would encourage all women to come in for their physical to check their heart, lungs, vital signs (blood pressure/pulse), and pelvic exam, including a pap smear if appropriate. Colonoscopy is also recommended after the age of 50.

What other steps are important to take for women (and men) in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer?

The most important thing is having a conversation with your medical provider once per year as to the recommendations for you.

Northwest Colorado Health's Women's Wellness Program helps ensure women receive regular breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings, or Pap tests, to detect any signs of disease early, when chances of survival are highest. If screenings detect abnormalities and possible cancer, WWC can help pay for diagnostic testing. If cancer is found, the program will connect patients to the help they need. Those who do not qualify for WWC will be guided to other resources that may be available to help pay for the necessary screenings.

Learn more at northwestcoloradohealth.org/what_we_do/community-health-center/primary-care/womens-health.html

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.