Fact-checking the Myths About Breast Cancer
Common Beliefs That Shouldn’t Be Believed
By Connie Oliver
With the political season heating up as the presidential election draws ever closer, it seems that everything is being fact-checked. Just as we fact-check candidates’ statements to help ensure the health of our nation, we should also be fact-checking some common beliefs about breast cancer to ensure the health of our bodies.
Solis Mammography, the nation’s largest independent provider of breast imaging services, has compiled a list of 10 commonly known beliefs about mammograms or breast cancer that have proven to be nothing but myths. Have you fallen victim to one of these myths?
MYTH 1: There’s no reason to get a mammogram screening every year.
FACT: A woman’s breasts are always changing. Breastfeeding, hormone fluctuations, menstrual cycles, menopause… all affect women’s bodies and their breast health. While the decision to get a mammogram is a personal one, women ages 40 and older need to understand that changes in their bodies mean changes in their breast. Annual screening is the best way to ensure that should a concern arise, early detection offers the best and easiest treatment options possible.
MYTH 2: Mammograms are painful.
FACT: In most cases, the two breast compressions necessary for an accurate mammogram will be a little uncomfortable, but they should not be painful. Each compression takes 45 seconds, and the entire procedure takes 5 to 10 minutes. And technologists dedicated to breast imaging understand just how much compression is “enough” to get a good image, while minimizing discomfort.
MYTH 3: Mammograms aren’t accurate.
FACT: Currently, 2D and 3D mammography are the best tools available to detect breast cancer before it can be felt. Mammography is most accurate when performed by a dedicated breast imaging center, by fellowship-trained or dedicated breast radiologists, by radiologists who read a high volume of both screening and diagnostic mammograms, and by facilities who employ “batch reading” to interpret screening mammograms without interruption.
MYTH 4: Breast cancer is a death sentence.
FACT: There is no question breast cancer is a serious disease, but as with most diseases, the earlier it is detected and treatment begins, the better the outcome. With advances in medical research and treatment, the 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed with stage 0 or 1 breast cancer – the earliest stages – is 100 percent.(1)
MYTH 5: You don’t need to worry if you don’t have breast cancer in your family.
FACT: Radiologists are reporting more breast cancer findings in women with no family history of breast cancer. In 2015, the numbers show that 85 percent of the reported cases of breast cancer were found in women with no history of it in their family.(2)
MYTH 6: Doing self-exams is equally as good as getting a mammogram.
FACT: According to the American Cancer Society, mammography is the “single, most effective method of early detection.” Mammograms detect cancer long before any physical symptoms, such as lumps, become apparent to a woman performing a self-exam or even to a trained physician conducting a manual exam. In women who have annual mammograms, the average anomaly found is the size of pea. In women who do not get annual screenings, the average size of a lump found through self-exam is the size of a walnut.
MYTH 7: There’s no difference between 2D and 3D mammograms.
FACT: While they take virtually the same amount of time, and require the same amount of pressure, there is a big difference between the two technologies. 3D mammogram screening – also known as tomosynthesis – gives radiologists more and clearer images of breast tissue, increasing the specificity of early detection while decreasing the need for unnecessary callbacks. Using the analogy of a book instead of a breast, 3D allows the radiologist to look at individual pages within the book rather than just trying to read its contents by peeking through the front or back cover.
MYTH 8: Mammograms are too expensive.
FACT: Nearly all private insurance carriers cover the cost of a 2D screening mammogram with zero copay – regardless of deductible. Medicare, Cigna and some regional insurers also cover the cost of 3D within their mammography plan. And for those who don’t have insurance or aren’t eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, Solis Mammography offers a $99 coupon for mammography screening and partners with local nonprofits who support women who cannot cover the cost of their breast cancer treatment.
MYTH 9: I’m too young to get breast cancer.
FACT: Sadly, radiologists across the country are seeing more cases of breast cancer at younger ages. In 2015, of all women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, one in five (20 percent) were in their 40s. Coupled with the fact that cancer in younger tissue tends to grow at a faster rate, this makes early detection all the more important. In spite of confusion around new guidelines, standard 2D screenings are still completely covered by nearly all insurance plans, and 3D mammograms are 100 percent covered by Medicare and select major providers.
MYTH 10: It doesn’t matter where I go as long as I get an annual screening.
FACT: All screening providers are not created equal. Women should ask if the radiologists reading their mammograms are breast-imaging specialists, medical doctors who spend more than 90 percent of their time performing mammograms. Of the approximately 27,000 radiologists in the U.S., less than 5 percent (1,350) meet this criteria,(3) and according to clinical research, this makes a big difference in accurate diagnoses. (4) The knowledge and experience to properly position a woman in the screening device and knowing the exact amount of compression needed mean exceptionally accurate results and a more overall comfortable experience.
The bottom line is that getting a mammogram is easy and too important to ignore. At Solis Mammography, we’ve worked hard to make it an exceptional experience for women, so they won’t avoid getting the mammogram they need. We want to empower women with the knowledge they need to make the right choice for their unique health history. Don’t delay; take care of your breast health today.
Studies cited in article:
(1.) American Cancer Society.
(2.) “Breast Cancer Prevention and Early Detection”, American Cancer Society.
(3.) Lewis RS, Sunshine JH, Bhargayan M. A Portrait of Breast Imaging Specialists and of the Interpretation of Mammography in the United States. AJR 2006; 187; W456-W468.
(4.) Sickles, AE, Wolverton, DE, Dee, KE. Performance Parameters for Screening and Diagnostic Mammography: Specialist and General Radiologists. Radiology 2002; 224-3: 861-869.
Connie Oliver is a vice president with Solis Mammography, the nation’s largest independent provider of breast imaging. Celebrating 30 years in breast imaging, Solis Mammography is a specialized healthcare provider focused on delivering women an exceptional mammography experience.
Headquartered in Addison, Texas, Solis currently operates 41 centers across six major markets – North Texas; Houston, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Columbus, Ohio; Greensboro, North Carolina, and through its recent acquisition of Washington Radiology Associates (WRA), the D.C. metropolitan area. The company operates both wholly-owned centers and multiple successful joint ventures with hospital partners. Solis Mammography (including WRA), serves more than 600,000 patients each year with highly specialized imaging services including screening and diagnostic mammography (2D and 3D), computer-aided detection, breast ultrasound, stereotactic biopsy and ultrasound-guided biopsy. For more information, visit SolisMammo.com, like them on Facebook, follow them on Pinterest, or subscribe to their YouTube channel.