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HOUSE CALL: Mammograms between ages 40 and 49 save lives

 


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Join the Komen Race team

For the third year, Missouri Baptist Medical Center and KMOX Newsradio 1120 have partnered to form a Komen Race team. Join the MoBap/KMOX Team to benefit the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure on Saturday, June 11, in downtown St. Louis. If you can't attend the race, simply donate as part of the team and help raise money for breast cancer research, education and screenings.

For a $25 donation, team participants receive an official Komen Race for the Cure T-shirt, plus a MoBap/KMOX team T-shirt. Participants are invited to be part of the team group photo in front of Missouri Baptist's mammography van with KMOX's Debbie Monterrey and Carol Daniel.

To join the MoBap/KMOX Team, visit www.kmox.com/race. For T-shirt pick-up information, visit www.missouribaptist.org.

Over the last few years, one of four women we've diagnosed with breast cancer have been under the age of 50. And many physicians are reaffirming that women ages 40 to 49 need annual mammograms.

Under the current American Cancer Society screening guidelines, breast cancer deaths have dropped 30 percent in women of all ages.

While there are no perfect tests in medicine, screening mammography offers women the best chance of detecting early breast cancer.

Recommendations of the American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging include:

  • Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
  • A clinical breast exam by a physician about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and older.
  • Breast self-exams starting as a woman enters her 20s. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any change promptly to their health care provider.


Why digital mammograms?

Digital mammograms allow better visualization of dense breast tissue and helps us better detect microcalcifications, which are tiny mineral deposits within the breast tissue. Calcifications are most often benign. They are caused by the aging of breast arteries, old injuries or inflammation, but they can indicate developing breast cancer. Benign calcifications are found in about half of women over 50 and in about one of 10 women under 50.

The shape and distribution of calcifications within breast tissue help radiologists determine whether the calcifications warrant further evaluation with a needle biopsy.

When a small lump is felt, or a mass is found on a mammogram, additional digital imaging is required, often including a breast ultrasound. Ultrasound offers additional information that can help determine whether further testing is required.

It's important to have annual mammograms so we can closely compare previous year images for subtle changes in breast density or evaluation of new masses.

Annual mammograms beginning at age 40 are the most important step women can take to help radiologists detect small breast cancers in an early stage. If you're a woman age 40 to 49, I encourage you to schedule your mammogram now and encourage all the women in your life to do the same. The small amount of time it takes is worth your peace of mind.

Dr. Geoffrey S. Hamill is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist and section chief of mammography at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

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