Finding breast cancer early can save your life, so start getting a mammogram every year at age 40. If you have a family member, such as a mother or a sister who has had breast cancer, start getting a mammogram at age 35.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray which uses a very low and harmless level of radiation. Dr. Harris will set up a screening with Wayne Memorial Hospital in Jesup. The screening takes about 15 minutes. The breast is placed and flattened in a special machine by a technologist who will take a couple of pictures. The radiologist will read the mammogram to see if any suspicious areas are present. You will have the results in a couple of days.

If a mass or suspicious area is found, you may need to have more detailed pictures taken or an ultrasound. Sometimes a small amount of fluid will be removed from the suspicious area to determine if it is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass, which may or may not be cancer. Sometimes the doctor will do a biopsy which is a minor procedure to take out all or part of the suspicious area. A biopsy is examined by a pathologist. Even if you need to have a biopsy, remember that 80 percent of lumps and suspicious areas are not cancer.

Some important reasons to get a mammogram

  • Finding breast cancer early can save your life.
  • As you get older, your risk for breast cancer increases.
  • More than 3/4 of the breast cancers diagnosed occur in women over age 50. A woman of 70 is almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer in the next year as a woman of 50.
  • Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no history of it in their families.
  • Finding breast cancer early often means less surgery.
  • Having a yearly mammogram gives you peace of mind.

How can I afford a mammogram?

Medicare, Medicaid and almost all insurance companies provide coverage for mammograms. Some low-cost mammography programs are also available. Wayne Memorial Hospital offers special hours and programs during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October each year. Check with the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 for additional information about low cost programs.