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Early Detection Matters: A Look into Mammograms and Self-Examinations for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer, one of the most common cancers among women worldwide, has a significantly higher survival rate when detected early. This makes regular screenings an essential tool in the fight against this disease. Let’s delve into the importance of these screenings and how they can be a life-saving measure. (For a deeper understanding of the importance of breast cancer screening, read our detailed blog post here.)

How Mammograms Work and Why They’re Essential

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It is currently the most effective method for detecting breast cancer early, often before symptoms appear. During the procedure, the breast is compressed between two plates to produce clear images of the breast tissue. These images can reveal tumors that are too small to be felt and can detect cancers before symptoms develop, making them easier to treat and increasing the chances of a positive outcome.

Regular mammograms can reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends yearly mammogram screening starting at age 40. Screening intervals can change as a person ages depending on prior testing and family history, so talk with your doctor about the right screening for you.

The Role of Self-Examinations and When to See a Doctor

While mammograms are crucial, self-examinations are vital in early detection. Regularly examining your breasts, you become familiar with how they usually look and feel. The familiarity makes it easier to notice changes, such as lumps, pain, or nipple discharge.

If you notice any of these changes, it is essential to see a doctor immediately. While many of these changes can be due to non-cancerous conditions, it is always better to be safe and get them checked.

Breast cancer, when detected early, has a high survival rate. Regular screenings, including mammograms and self-examinations, are the first defense against this disease. By staying informed and proactive about your breast health, you can significantly reduce your risk and ensure that if breast cancer does occur, it is caught at an early, more treatable stage. Remember, early detection is about survival and preserving quality of life.

Reviewed by Anna K. Melnikoff, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.

Dr. Lauren Thomas is a Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Galen Obstetrics & Gynecology East.