Mammograms essential for early cancer detection

5:18 AM, Oct 15, 2018
9:38 AM, Jun 12, 2019

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it’s also a time that doctors stress the importance of women getting an annual mammogram.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer that women are diagnosed with.

One in eight women is diagnosed with this form of cancer in the United States every year, which in turn results in a woman being diagnosed every two minutes.

A mammogram is an essential step in taking care of yourself and your breasts, which is why the procedure could be lifesaving.

“A mammogram is a low dose x-ray image of the breast that is used to screen for abnormal changes in the breast tissue as well as screen for breast cancer,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center Radiation Oncologist Dr. Gerard Voorhees,

Breast Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in women, second only to lung cancer.  While breast cancer can occur in men, it is close to 100 times more common in women.

“The general guidelines for women with an average risk or no greater than normal risk, they should begin their screening at the age of 45 through or until they are 74,” said Voorhees.

This is why getting yearly mammograms is of the utmost importance.

“Breast cancer screening is so important for all women. Mammography in particular has about an 87 percent specificity. That means, they can pick up breast cancer, in particular God willing, early in 87 percent of women that have that test,” said Voorhees,

Just because someone has no family history of cancer, it does not mean they will never get the disease.

“Some of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer: if there is a nipple discharge, if the skin of the breasts appear like an orange peel, if there is an obvious lump or bump, those are all signs of potential breast cancer,” said Voorhees.

“I think it is important that women have mammograms. They can obtain mammograms anywhere. A great resource is the Breast Center of South Texas. Women can go into the center, and there is no appointment necessary, and they take walk-ins. The most important thing is that women have their mammograms,” said Vorhees.

What is a mammogram:

A mammogram is an X-ray image of your breasts used to screen for breast cancer. Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and help decrease breast cancer deaths.

During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between two firm surfaces to spread out the breast tissue. Then an X-ray captures black-and-white images of your breasts that are displayed on a computer screen and examined by a doctor who looks for signs of cancer.

Mammography is X-ray imaging of your breasts designed to detect tumors and other abnormalities. Mammography can be used either for screening or for diagnostic purposes in evaluating a breast lump:

When to begin screening mammography:

Talk with your doctor about your risk factors, your preferences, and the benefits and risks of screening. Together, you can decide what screening mammography schedule is best for you.

Some general guidelines for when to begin screening mammography include:

  • Women with an average risk of breast cancer. Many women begin mammograms at age 40 and have them every one to two years. Professional groups differ on their recommendations.

The American Cancer Society advises women with an average risk to begin screening mammograms yearly at age 45 until age 54, and then continue every two years for at least the next 10 years. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women start screening every two years starting at age 50 until age 74. However, these groups agree that women can choose to be screened starting at age 40.

  • Women with a high risk of breast cancer.Women with a high risk of breast cancer may benefit by beginning screening mammograms before age 40. Talk to your doctor about evaluating your individual risk of breast cancer. Your risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer or a history of precancerous breast lesions, may lead your doctor to recommend magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in combination with mammograms.


Mammography produces mammograms — black-and-white images of your breast tissue. Mammograms are digital images that appear on a computer screen. A radiologist interprets the images and sends a written report of the findings to your doctor.

The radiologist looks for evidence of cancer or noncancerous (benign) conditions that may require further testing, follow-up or treatment.

Possible findings include:

  • Calcium deposits (calcifications) in ducts and other tissues
  • Masses or lumps
  • Asymmetric areas on the mammogram
  • Dense areas appearing in only one breast or one specific area on the  mammogram
  • New dense area that has appeared since your last mammogram

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