from Getting a Mammogram It Could Save Your Life
August 2019 Issue
By Rochelle Ringer, MD
Photo provided by Hilton Head Regional Healthcare
“I don’t want my implants to rupture.”
“The radiation is too harmful.”
“I don’t really need to get a mammogram until I’m older.”
“If men had to get mammograms, they would have figured out a better way to do those years ago.”
These are some of the many reasons I’ve heard for women not getting mammograms. We all agree getting a mammogram isn’t fun, or what we would choose to do with a free afternoon, BUT, it could literally save your life. Of all the things we do in a day, how many can we say that about?
It hurts: Mammograms are done by compressing the breast tissue to get the best picture and less overlapping tissue. This compression can be uncomfortable but only lasts 5 to10 seconds.
I don’t want my implants to rupture: It is very rare for mammograms to cause implant rupture. Women who have implants should let the mammogram technologist know about their implants. Special images are taken where the implant is moved back, and the x-ray is done of only the breast tissue.
The radiation is too harmful: We need to be aware of the amount of radiation we’re exposed to because excessive doses can be harmful. However, we also need to consider the risks and benefits of radiation exposure. The amount of radiation from a typical mammogram is 0.4mSv. For comparison, people are exposed to about 3mSv of radiation per year simply from natural surroundings.
I don’t really need to get a mammogram until I’m older: Every couple of years it seems there are organizations that come out with new or different recommendations for when women should start getting mammograms and how often. The American Society of Breast Surgeons and American College of Radiology both recommend starting at age 40 and having a mammogram every year.
If men had to get mammograms, they would have figured out a better way to do those years ago: There is constant research being done on new technologies to find breast cancer earlier and in a more comfortable way. We sometimes use MRI to find breast cancer and will often use ultrasound in addition to mammogram. Unfortunately, none of the studies, other than mammogram, have been shown to save a woman’s life.
Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer,
but they can find it earlier than if found otherwise.
Here is why earlier is better: Finding a breast cancer early can reduce a woman’s chances of dying of breast cancer by up to 36 percent. By finding breast cancer early, you can decrease the amount of treatment needed.
Having a mammogram isn’t always fun,
but it could literally save your life.
Isn’t your life worth it?
Specializing in breast health and surgical oncology in the Lowcountry, Rochelle Ringer, M.D. is a fellowship-trained breast surgeon dedicated to caring for patients with breast disease at Hilton Head Regional Healthcare. Dr. Ringer earned her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine and completed a residency in general surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital, in Cincinnati, Ohio. She went on to complete a breast surgical oncology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Dr. Ringer is also an Associate Clinical Professor of Surgical Oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina and a member of the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center Comprehensive Breast Care Team. She is a member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and is board certified by the American Board of General Surgery. To learn more or to schedule a mammogram, call (843) 836-1600.