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Published on December 12, 2016

Overcoming Excuses for Not Getting a Mammogram

By David Gruen, MD, MBA, Director of Women’s Imaging & Co-Director, Breast Center and Helen Pass, MD, Director of Breast Surgery and Co-Director, Breast Center

Everyone has a different excuse for avoiding their yearly mammogram. Here are our thoughts on some of the most common ones.

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1. “I’m too busy!”
Stamford Health offers convenient appointment times at Tully Health Center, Darien Imaging Center, Wilton Imaging Center and Greenwich Imaging Center. With evening and walk-in appointments available, and weekend hours for some locations, we can certainly help you schedule this important procedure!

2. “I’m afraid of what we might find.”
We completely understand the anxiety involved in waiting for your results. Because your time counts, we're commited to providing you with same-day results during standard business hours and results the next business day for off-hour or weekend appointments. If needed, we'll also try our best to schedule you for a same-day biopsy.

3. “I think I’ll skip it this year. I’ve heard I don’t really need one every single year.”
Some breast cancers grow and spread quickly, and others more slowly—no one can predict how one specific cancer will behave. The largest and longest running breast cancer screening trials found that annual mammography decreases the risk of dying from breast cancer by roughly a third in all women age 40 and over. Since the best hope for cure is early detection, it’s in your best interest to start getting yearly mammograms at age 40. Remember, your risk increases significantly at that age and continues to rise as you get older.

Dr. David Gruen and Dr. Helen Pass analyzing 3D mammogram

4. “I think I’ll wait until I’m 50 years old to get my mammogram.”
A recent study showed that more than 70% of the women who died from breast cancer in their 40’s- were among the 20% who were not getting mammography. In addition, the best and most extensive studies show that women who start screening at age 40 have the most lives saved from mammography. The harms of screening are negligible, compared to dying from breast cancer, and there is no scientific or biological reason to delay screening until age 50.

Many major American medical organizations with expertise in breast cancer care agree that starting annual mammography at age 40 saves the most lives.

5. “I’m afraid of radiation and chemotherapy.”
Yes mammograms use low dose radiation, but one fact remains irrefutable: mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by 30% since 1990.

A woman's lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is 1/8 (12%). The risk of dying from cancer due to the radiation exposure from mammography in a woman aged 40 years is 1/70,000 and this risk declines rapidly with age.

To be even more specific, mammography exposes people to 0.4 mSv. That is the same amount of radiation a person living in Denver receives in about 1/3 of a year (133 days to be exact). The average yearly radiation dose from food is 0.3 mSv. The average yearly background radiation dose is 3.1 mSv (that is almost eight fold the dose of a mammogram). Radiation workers are allowed to receive 50 mSv per year. To put things into perspective, mammography exposes a person to a very small amount of radiation.

Chemotherapy has come a long way, too. In fact, more and more women who have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer may no longer need aggressive chemotherapy as part of their treatment plan.

Yearly mammography is recommended because finding early stage breast cancer allows more treatment options and a better opportunity for long-term survival.

6. “I can’t afford it!”
Do not let financial concerns keep you from getting your mammogram. Stamford Hospital offers free mammography for those who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover breast cancer screening, as long as certain qualifications are met.

As always, use these guidelines when talking with your doctor about getting a mammogram.

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