Common Misconceptions About Breast Cancer & Screening Mammograms
Partner Content
By South Jersey Radiology Associates

In the United States, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. 

Across the country, there are countless resources and stories empowering women to take the right steps toward prevention. Unfortunately, some misconceptions lie in between these resources, and can make it confusing to manage your breast health. The breast health experts at South Jersey Radiology helped us understand some of the common misconceptions about breast cancer and annual screening mammograms.

Breast Cancer Only Affects Older Women

The myth that breast cancer only affects older women couldn’t be further from the truth. The risk of developing breast cancer does increase as you age, peaking between the ages of 40 -49, but can affect women of all ages. About 4% of all breast cancers diagnosed in the US occur in women under 40 and tend to be more aggressive.  

Getting A Mammogram Will Hurt

Many women avoid scheduling a mammogram because they believe it will hurt. Although mammograms may be uncomfortable for some, new technology allows for decreased scan times. On average, the compression of each breast only lasts about 10 – 15 seconds each. Imaging equipment companies such as Hologic, have developed mammography equipment that features a curved plate to increase comfort during the study. Before you make an appointment for your mammogram, ask about what kind of equipment is housed at their locations. 

Only Mammograms Can Assess Breast Tissue

It is important to understand that mammograms, while the screening standard, are not the only type of imaging available to monitor your breast tissue. Women with high risk factors such as genetic mutations or dense breast tissue can benefit greatly by undergoing other diagnostic studies along with annual screening mammograms. Breast ultrasound and breast MRIs capture additional information that screening mammograms may miss. Before scheduling your screening mammogram, make sure your women’s imaging provider has all these capabilities available to allow for a comprehensive look if something suspicious or unclear is seen

If I Don’t Have Family History, I’m Not At Risk 

Yes, family history is a major risk factor. However, family history being the only risk factor is very misleading. In fact, 3 in 4 women diagnosed with breast cancer had no family history of it. Numerous factors, including your lifestyle choices, your age, and your environment, contribute to your risk. Regardless of your family history, all women starting at the age of 40 should prioritize annual screening mammograms. 

Self-Exams Can Substitute for Mammograms

Routine self-exams are an essential part of breast health, but they are not a replacement for mammograms. Self-exams can detect changes in breast tissue but cannot identify early-stage cancers when they are in their most treatable stages. With their ability to reveal subtle abnormalities, mammograms play a strong role in maintaining your breast health. 

Mammograms Are Expensive

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a piece of legislation that expands screening and preventative care for Americans at average risk for certain diseases including cancer. Underneath this act, it requires most health insurance providers to cover annual screening mammograms with no out-of-pocket expenses for women ages 40 and older. If your women’s imaging provider is in-network, you should be good to go!

When & Where You Go For Mammograms Doesn’t Matter

The idea of all women’s imaging providers being equal is simply untrue. When selecting the right center for you, you should weigh a few different factors. First, you want to make sure it works with your schedule. For many women, life gets busy and prioritizing your breast health can quickly fall down the “to-do” list. A women’s imaging provider should offer evening and weekend hours and have your reports easily accessible. Second, the experience of the radiologists counts. Board-certified, subspecialized radiologists who receive additional training in breast imaging should be interpreting your studies. A highly experienced team of experts coupled with state-of-the-art technology allows for the clearest images to be captured, making you and your specialists better informed. 

Determining if a place makes sense for you may seem time consuming, but there are ways to quickly assess a center’s expertise. The American College of Radiology (ACR) created the “Accredited Facility Search” tool allowing you to identify quality and comprehensive women’s imaging providers near you. Rather than dig through web pages, you can simply search by your zip code in one click!

For over 80 years, South Jersey Radiology Associates (SJRA) has been recognized as South Jersey’s and Philadelphia’s trusted breast imaging experts. SJRA is proud to be the region’s first Breast Imaging Center of Excellence (BICOE), offering a comprehensive approach throughout your breast health journey. 

As recognized by local doctors and specialists, see who from South Jersey Radiology made it onto SJ Magazine’s “2023 Top Doc’s” list here!

October 2023
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