Many women find themselves so busy taking care of others that they neglect themselves – particularly when it comes to their health. There are a number of exams women need on an annual basis to ensure optimal health, and for women over 40, a mammogram is one of them. Debora Coursey-Prah, M.D., the medical director of Piedmont Fayette Women’s Imaging Center, hears six common mammogram and breast cancer rumors, and would like to clear up these myths once and for all.
Myth 1: If I have breast cancer, I’d rather not know.
Having breast cancer is definitely scary, but the sooner you know you have breast cancer, the sooner you can fight back. Remember, the earlier the cancer is detected, the easier the treatment will be.
Myth 2: If I get a mammogram, I’m putting myself at higher risk of developing cancer.
Flying from New York to California on a commercial jet exposes a woman to roughly the same amount of radiation as one mammogram according to the American Cancer Society. The benefits far outweigh the potential risks.
Myth 3: Mammograms are too painful.
While getting a mammogram may not be a comfortable procedure, the compression lasts only a few seconds for each image. Scheduling your appointment between days seven and 14 of your menstrual cycle when breast tissue is less sensitive and taking ibuprofen or Tylenol before leaving home can help.
Myth 4: I found a lump in my breast and I can move it. That means it is not cancer.
Decades ago, cancers were found much later — often after they had attached to the chest wall making them immobile. Now, due to awareness, when someone finds a lump, it is usually mobile, whether it is cancer or not.
Myth 5: I can’t do breast self-exams because my breasts are too lumpy.
It is normal for breasts to feel lumpy and uneven. If you feel any areas that are harder or more irregular or “gritty” feeling than others, get them checked. If you are new to breast self-exams, don’t be discouraged; it takes time to know what is normal for you. Once you are familiar with your normal breast pattern, feel for anything new or different.
Myth 6: No one in my family has had breast cancer. I’m not at risk.
Roughly 85 percent of women who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease, so those without a family history are not in the clear. Mammograms, monthly breast self-exams, and yearly breast exams by a health care provider are important for the early detection of breast cancer.
Learn more about breast cancer screenings.