While it is not the most enjoyable experience for a woman, a mammogram is a procedure that saves countless lives every day. Moreover, it is a procedure women 40 years of age and older should be talking to their doctor about scheduling, especially if they have a history of breast cancer in their family.
“Breast cancer doesn’t often hurt and sometimes there is no tell-tale lump,” said. Dr. Priyanka Raval, a breast medical oncologist at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University. “Imagine if you do have cancer and you wait two or three years between mammograms. The amount of cancer in your body could have doubled or tripled in that time.”
According to the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Cancer Facts and Figures 2020 report, more than 8,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in Georgia. Statistics compiled by ACS research teams show female breast cancer was the most common cancer diagnosed in Georgia during the years of 2012-16. In South Carolina, ACS has forecasted nearly 4,800 new cases of breast cancer in 2020.
The National Cancer Institute said breast cancer is most common in middle-aged and older women. Female breast cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Raval wants women to know there are remarkable new treatments for advanced breast cancer that have shown a profound impact on leading to long-term survival rates.
“From mammograms at Augusta University Health’s Breast Imaging Center of Excellence to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, we do our best to make this a one-stop-shop experience for our cancer patients,” Raval said. “Cancer is bad enough. We don’t need this experience to add additional stress to a patient’s life.”
A mammogram is so important because statistics show that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. If detected early, the five-year survival rate is 97 percent. For those who are not getting their first mammogram, it is important to make sure your breast imaging physician has the films from past tests. Having those films makes it easier to compare spots to make sure they have not changed — often an indicator of the disease.
To help us achieve the earliest detection rate possible, Augusta University Health’s Breast Imaging Center of Excellence offers all patients 3-D mammograms. 3-D mammograms are more comfortable than standard mammograms, reduce repeat testing or false alarms by 40 percent and help detect breast cancers more accurately and earlier, increasing survival rates and increasing treatment options.
“We do a good job of reminding women to get mammograms when they turn 40, but we don’t remind them to do it every year,” Raval said. “While most get one when they turn 40, about 75 percent don’t get them yearly.”
A woman does not need an order from her doctor to get a screening mammogram. Most insurance companies cover 100 percent of the cost. The Breast Imaging Center of Excellence is located on the first floor of Augusta University Medical Center. To schedule a screening mammogram, call (706) 721-XRAY (9729).