10/06/15

Women should get an annual mammogram starting at age 40

Doctors at Carle recommend following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines that all women get an annual mammogram starting at age 40.

This contradicts a U.S. Preventive Task Force recommendation that women get a mammogram every two years starting at age 50.

“Women can survive breast cancer and even be cured if the cancer is caught quickly,” said Mitchell Sussman, MD, radiologist at Mills Breast Cancer Institute at Carle, fellowship trained in breast imaging. “An annual mammogram gives us the best chance to catch breast cancer early.”

“We want to find these cancers small. The larger the tumor, the harder it is to treat.”

Carle has three fellowship-trained radiologists who focus their practice on breast imaging, the most in the area, specially trained to evaluate mammograms and catch breast cancer in its early stages.

Dr. Sussman says the mammogram technology has gotten to the point where he and his colleagues can detect a breast cancer tumor just five or six millimeters in size. “We used to be pleased if we could catch a breast cancer tumor a half inch in size. Now it is just millimeters,” he commented.

What about women who are embarrassed to get a mammogram or are afraid of discomfort?

“Carle mammography technicians are all women and they protect the dignity of the patient. The actual appointment takes 10-minutes and the patient feels a slight bit of pressure,” Dr. Sussman said.

“Those 10-minutes could save your life.”

If a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, Mills Breast Cancer Institute has a comprehensive team standing by to serve. The team includes fellowship-trained experts in cancer care that range from diagnosis to treatment to reconstruction. Patients can also receive genetic counseling and participate in clinical trials. The team gives patients the tools they need to fight breast cancer.

An annual mammogram saved Michele Crossin’s life. She is a nurse at Carle and she started getting annual mammograms starting at age 40. Her fifth-annual mammogram produced a surprise. “Doctor’s found three cancers, all just millimeters in size. The cancer began between my annual mammograms. I opted for surgery, the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, and I am taking oral medication. I don’t need chemotherapy or radiation,” she said.

“I credit the Carle radiologists for finding the cancer so early and the entire breast cancer team for treating the disease and giving me the best chance to recover,” Crossin added.

“I am blessed. The mammogram saved my life. Women should not put it off. I preach it to all of my friends – get a mammogram every year,” Crossin said.

Dr. Sussman says that all women should talk to their primary care physician about breast cancer prevention and getting a mammogram. “Patients should talk to their doctor about their family history of breast cancer and other risk factors.”

“And, they should follow the American Cancer Society guidelines and get annual mammograms starting at age 40,” he concluded.

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