October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month―the perfect time to discuss the importance of mammography. Because breast cancer is often detectable in its early stages when there’s a good chance for a cure, breast cancer screening is essential to early detection.

Most significantly, mammography is an important line of defense against breast cancer because it can identify tumors even before they can be felt. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among women of all races. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women age 40 or older have screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years. If a woman is at high risk for developing breast cancer, her doctor may recommend screening at a younger age, along with additional imaging studies. The radiology department at Harris Hospital is a proud to offer a variety of breast cancer screening techniques that include screening and diagnostic mammography. A conventional screening mammogram is a low-dose X-ray test that creates images of breast tissue so doctors can check for lesions or other abnormalities. The x-ray images make it possible to detect tumors that cannot be felt, and can find microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium) that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer. A mammogram used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of the disease is called a diagnostic mammogram. Besides a lump, signs of breast cancer can include breast pain, thickening of the skin of the breast, nipple discharge, or a change in breast size or shape; however, these signs may also be signs of benign or non-cancerous breast conditions. For women with private insurance, the cost of screening mammograms is usually covered without copayments or deductibles, but women should contact their mammography facility or health insurance company for confirmation. In addition, Medicare pays for annual screening mammograms for all female Medicare beneficiaries age 40 or older. The professionals at Harris Hospital are ready to provide the breast screening technique that is appropriate for the individual woman. You can call 870-512-3042 to schedule a mammogram. Visit www.harrishospital.com and click on the banner for more information about breast health. About the Author: Lisa Whitehead is Director of the Radiology Department at Harris Hospital. For more information about mammography, call 870-512-3004. Remember that this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information to facilitate conversations with their physician.