Mention October and thoughts naturally turn to pumpkins, cold fronts and football. However, it’s also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Having a mammogram is a vital step toward good breast health.
Sharon Smith, M.D.; Jennifer Whitelock, M.D.; and Amber Dobyne, M.D., obstetricians-gynecologists affiliated with Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital, endorse screening mammograms for their lifesaving benefits.
“There are certain abnormalities that simply cannot be detected by the patient at home and perhaps not by the physician in the office,” says Dr. Whitelock. “Some types of breast cancers are so small that they cannot be picked up in the form of a mass.”
THE FIRST STEP TO DIAGNOSIS
Drs. Smith, Whitelock and Dobyne follow the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ recommendation that a woman with no family history of breast cancer should have her first mammogram at the age of 40. If there is a family history, or if an abnormality is detected on a physical exam, the patient should see her physician and schedule a mammogram, even if she is younger than 40.
“Genetic screening may also be recommended if a first-degree relative, such as a mom, dad or sibling, has had breast cancer,” adds Dr. Dobyne.
During the physical examination, the physician takes the patient’s medical history and performs a clinical breast examination. For a returning patient, the doctor checks any changes and updates the history.
Depending on the results of this clinical examination, the physician may prescribe a traditional 2-D mammogram, a diagnostic mammogram, which includes numerous additional images, or a 3-D digital mammogram, also called tomosynthesis.
3-D mammography views breast layers in greater detail. It is particularly useful for women with dense breast tissue as it can usually detect smaller breast tumors better than traditional 2-D mammography. If an abnormality is detected on any mammogram, an ultrasound may be necessary.
“During a clinical exam, if an abnormality is suspected, a diagnostic workup may be indicated. A diagnostic workup gives the radiologist the options of mammogram, ultrasound and biopsies, if necessary,” says Dr. Smith.
SCHEDULE NOW RATHER THAN LATER
A mammogram only takes about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, pain is sometimes cited as a reason for postponing this important screening. Dr. Smith’s advice is straightforward.
“Sometimes a mammogram is uncomfortable, but it’s important to get a diagnosis, and the discomfort is very brief,” says Dr. Smith. “We are better at treating cancer, or an abnormality, if we detect it early.”
Dr. Smith goes on to explain that breast implants decrease sensitivity, so she recommends 3-D tomosynthesis for these patients.
Additionally, men are not immune from breast cancer.
“Men are not screened often, but if there’s a family history of breast cancer, especially male breast cancer, we do recommend screening,” says Dr. Smith. “Obviously, this process starts with the patient’s family doctor, who may prescribe an ultrasound, mammogram or even genetic testing.”
EXPERT BREAST CARE, CLOSE TO HOME
Certified by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, the Memorial Hermann Imaging & Breast Care Center – Greater Heights offers state-of-the-art screening and diagnostic services, ultrasound, expedited diagnostic services, extended hours and other amenities.
To schedule a mammogram call 713-867-3336.