Your Healthy Family: Why are mammograms important, and why is 3D imaging better?

8:05 AM, Oct 24, 2018

COLORADO SPRINGS – The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and looks to raise awareness and urge women who should be getting an annual mammogram to make sure and get that done.

A mammogram can save your life says Dr. Jason Allen , the Medical Director of the Breast Imaging Program at UCHealth Memorial.

“Early detection of breast cancer can make a huge difference.  If we can detect a cancer that is very small and early stage that can lead to a much better prognosis as opposed to a larger cancer that’s detected by palpation or later in the stage of the disease where it may have already spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.”

Dr. Allen also says many women may be avoiding a mammogram because of the fear of it being painful, but pain during the exam is something that can be addressed.

“If you are worried about compression, or if compression is too painful for you, you can ask the technologists to lighten up on the compression a little bit.  Compression is important because it allows the breast to be held still during the mammogram it also reduces artifacts like motion and others scatter that can occur.  It also minimizes the amount of the radiation dose that the breast tissue actually absorbs so compression is important.”

Specialized 3D breast imaging is becoming more common, and is allowing very small lumps to be identified long before they can be felt says Dr. Allen.

“3D mammograms are a little bit of a specialized mammogram.  Instead of just taking two images, you still get the same views of the breast but those 3D mammograms have the ability to unmask some of that denser tissue which can often mask a small cancer that’s not yet calcified in the breast.  There is an advantage to using a 3D mammogram especially if you have dense breasts.”

Another concern for many women may be the radiation from a mammogram.  Dr. Allen says it’s a very low dose and is generally less radiation than we’re exposed to from the sun in a year here in Colorado.  If you have any questions about a mammogram follow up with your doctor, and you can reach out to the folks at the Mary Lou Beshears Breast Care Center.  It’s one of eight accredited breast centers in Colorado. The American College of Surgeons awards the accreditation only to programs that have voluntarily committed to provide the highest level of breast care.  You can find more information about their services on their web page.

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