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9 mammogram myths debunked

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This story is sponsored by Utah Department of Health. Learn more about Utah Department of Health.


Mammograms don't tend to be high on many women's to-do lists. They probably rank somewhere between an annual physical and a trip to the dentist. However, for women who are age 40 and up, a few minutes spent getting this important test done could literally change the course of your life.

Breast cancer is 99 percent treatable, according to Cancerutah.org, but only when it's caught in time. Here are some things you probably didn't know about mammograms and what a difference they could make in a fight against cancer.

Myth #1: Mammograms are expensive

Fact: Most insurances cover annual mammograms with no out-of-pocket cost to you. However, if you don't have insurance or it doesn't cover mammograms, you may qualify for a free mammogram through the Utah Cancer Control program if you are between the ages of 40-64. Eligibility is based on income and it's easy to qualify, Cancerutah.org provides a complete set of income guidelines, plus other free services for which you may qualify.

Myth #2: Mammograms are no better at detection than self-exams

Fact: Mammograms can detect tumors as small as a pencil eraser. Most breast cancer tumors detected at this stage are also extremely treatable. Tumors as small as this would not be detectable through touch, sight or other symptoms.

Myth #3: You'll always end up with a mastectomy when your mammogram detects breast cancer

Fact: The smaller a tumor is when it's found, the more localized surgery can be to remove it. When a mammogram detects breast cancer in its earliest stages, you have a better chance of keeping your breasts, rather than having a full mastectomy or double mastectomy to remove them because of the risk of recurrence.

Breast Cancer Mortality by State | HealthGroveMyth #4: Mammograms are lengthy procedures

Fact: You could get one on your lunch break. The average mammogram takes only 20 minutes to complete. If you work near enough to the hospital or doctor's office, you might be able to complete it over your lunch break or on your way home at the end of the day. Failing either of these options, you wouldn't have to take much time off work, or pay much toward a babysitter if you have children at home, to get this simple, yet crucial test completed.

Myth #5: Every bump a mammogram detects is cancerous

Fact: If during a self-exam or mammogram an unusual growth is found, it doesn't automatically mean you have cancer. Mineral deposits, dense breast tissue and fluid-filled cysts could also show up as abnormalities in the breast, A mammogram is the first diagnostic test performed to begin to determine if a detected mass is cancerous.

Myth #6: You don't have to stick to a strict schedule with your mammograms

Fact: Cancer.org says one important reason for getting regular mammograms (preferably from the same clinic each year) is that it allows your doctor to compare your breast tissue from one screening to the next. This makes it easier to track changes and identify abnormal growths, density or swelling. If you switch clinics, make sure your new doctor gets access to your past mammogram results. Talk to your doctor to determine a mammogram schedule that is right for you.

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Myth #7: Mammograms can replace self-exams

Fact: Mammograms are an important part of your yearly check-ups, but they're no replacement for frequent self-exams for the time in between. Make sure you still take note of bumps, abnormal tenderness or swelling and report any changes to your doctor. Perform self-exams of your breasts on a regular basis. Women often find it most convenient to do so as part of their showering routine.

Visit cancerutah.org for more information about how regular mammograms can benefit you long term.

Myth #8: Women with implants can't get a mammogram.

Fact: Women with breast implants should also have mammograms. If you have breast implants, be sure to tell your mammography facility that you have them when you make your appointment. The technician and radiologist must be experienced in x-raying patients with breast implants.

Myth #9: I don't need a mammogram. I'm not at risk because I do not have a family history of breast cancer.

Fact: Only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary (result from gene defects). If you have a family history of breast cancer, make sure to talk to your doctor about the recommended age to begin and time in-between mammograms.

For more information, visit Utah Department of Health.