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Mammograms and the Importance of Catching Breast Cancer Early

Obstetrics & Gynecology located in Amarillo, TX

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Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis — and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths — among women. Catching breast cancer in its early, most treatable stage can be lifesaving, and mammograms aim to help you do just that.

This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that physicians across the United States will find close to 288,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer, and just over 51,000 cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a form of early-stage breast cancer that’s highly treatable. 

How are these breast cancer tumors detected? Through routine screening mammograms. 

As seasoned women’s wellness experts who specialize in mammographyour top-rated team at Panhandle Obstetrics and Gynecology in Amarillo, Texas, knows there’s nothing “routine” about having regular screening mammograms. On the contrary, swift breast cancer detection can save your life. 

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), let’s explore the importance of catching breast cancer early, and how regular mammograms and clinical breast exams can help you do just that. 

Making sense of breast cancer statistics 

As the second most common cancer among American women, breast cancer accounts for about one in three new female cancer cases in the US each year. Only skin cancer is diagnosed more often. 

About one in eight (13%) American women develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Middle-aged and older women are most affected: The median age for breast cancer diagnosis in the US is 62 years old, meaning half of women are 62 or younger when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer, and half are older than 62. 

While women of all ages get breast cancer, only a very small number of women develop the disease before the age of 45. 

The key to early breast cancer detection

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American women, after lung cancer. As distressing as that statistic may seem, it’s not all bad news. The number of older women (over the age of 50) dying of breast cancer has steadily declined since 2007. 

Experts attribute this welcome decline in breast cancer mortality to one key preventive tool: regular screening mammograms. Simply put, mammograms are lifesaving, and making them a recurrent part of your preventive women’s wellness routine could one day save your life. 

Like other forms of cancer, breast cancer is easiest to treat and cure when it’s caught early and hasn’t yet spread, or metastasized. Breast cancer can exist for months without causing symptoms or tumors that are large enough to be felt. Having regular screening mammograms is, without a doubt, the best way to catch breast cancer in its early, most treatable stage. 

In fact, invasive breast cancer that’s caught and treated before it spreads carries a five-year survival rate of 99%. While a variety of factors can affect your personal treatment outlook, the sooner you catch breast cancer, the better. 

Mammogram screening recommendations 

For women with an average risk of developing breast cancer, current screening guidelines offer age-based recommendations about when you should start having mammograms, and how often you should have them:

  • Ages 40 to 44: Women can choose to begin having annual mammograms if they wish to 
  • Ages 45 to 54: Women should have annual mammograms
  • Ages 55 and older: Women can switch to every two years if they haven’t had problems in the past 

Routine screening mammograms (annually or every two years) should continue into older age if a woman is in good general health and is expected to live at least 10 more years. 

If you have a high breast cancer risk because of your family history, genetic tendency, or other factors, our team may advise you to have a screening mammogram along with a breast MRI every year, typically starting at the age of 30. 

If you’re not sure which breast cancer risk category you fall into, our team assesses your personal risk factors and develops a screening plan that meets your needs. 

Getting a mammogram is quick and easy

Here at Panhandle Obstetrics and Gynecology, a screening mammogram typically takes 30 minutes or less. We offer a range of appointment times so you can choose one that’s most convenient for you, whether it’s over your lunch hour, before work, or later in the day. 

We’re open 8am-5pm, Monday through Thursday, and 8am-12pm on Friday. To schedule your next mammogram, give us a call today at 806-359-5468.