Dr. Linda Greer

Dr. Linda Greer is the medical director of Abrazo Breast Health Center.

A mammogram can save a life. The message is heard every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it applies all year round: Your health can’t wait.

Regular mammography screenings, combined with advances in imaging technologies, are leading to more accurate diagnoses so breast cancer can be detected and treated in its earliest stages. Early diagnosis increases treatment options and reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer.

Mammography is the current standard of care. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray examination, typically with two images taken of each breast. The purpose is to detect small cancers before patients become symptomatic.

Did you now that a high percentage of breast cancers occur in women with no family history or known risk factors? Cancers in younger women tend to be more aggressive, so early detection is critical. Many women with breast cancer have had no symptoms, which makes screening so important.

Consider these statistics from the American Cancer Society:

About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, along with 48,530 new cases of noninvasive (in situ) breast cancer.

About 2,620 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2020. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.

In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African American women than caucasian women.

Ashkenazi Jewish women have a higher risk of breast cancer because of a higher rate of BRCA mutations.

About 5% to 10% of breast cancers can be linked to known gene mutations inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common.

About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are sex (being a woman) and age (growing older).

The general consensus is to start scheduling annual mammograms at age 40, but factors such as family history may influence whether screenings begin at an earlier age. Advances in imaging such as 3D mammography are shown to have a significant increase in cancer detection and simultaneous decrease in unnecessary repeat imaging.

Knowing your personal breast density and lifetime risk of breast cancer can help you decide, along with your physician, if you would benefit from additional screening, like ultrasound or MRI. If diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, and at any age with dense breasts, an annual MRI is recommended in addition to mammography.

Women should be proactive about knowing their breast density and risk assessment value, and no matter their schedule, make time to get screened. If you think you may be at risk, please talk to your doctor about recommendations for mammograms and how often you should get them.

Abrazo Health has a dedicated mammography registration phone number, 602-824-HOPE. Callers can speak directly with a scheduler who can help plan appointments for personalized care.