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March 28, 2006 > No Better Time Than the Present

No Better Time Than the Present

Wait-times for Screening Mammograms Down

On any given day, most women can come up with a dozen different things they have to do or would rather do than have a mammogram. But, in the end, it only takes a quick look at our loved ones to know how important early detection of breast cancer can be, not only for us, but our families.

If you are due for your annual screening mammogram, there is no better time than now to schedule an appointment. Currently, appointment availability for screening mammograms at Washington West - 2500 Mowry Ave., allows most patients to get in for their screening within a week, if not the next day. Washington Hospital offers convenient morning, afternoon and evening appointments to accommodate patients' busy schedules.

Screening mammograms should be done annually for women, age 50 and over, who are asymptomatic, or exhibit no obvious symptoms related to breast cancer. Mammograms use X-ray to create two pictures of each breast. Because there is moderate compression of the breast tissue to improve the image quality, it is best to schedule your mammograms for the week after your period where the breast tissue is least tender.

With a mammogram, it is possible to detect microcalcifications, or tiny deposits of calcium in the breast, which sometimes are a clue to the presence of breast cancer, or a tumor that cannot be felt. On the day of your exam, you should avoid applying powders, deodorants or antiperspirants, as these substances can mimic calcifications, which could be confused with cancer.
Preventive medicine means healthier outcomes

"Mammograms in conjunction with clinical breast examinations are the only proven screening tests for detecting breast cancer," says Mimi Lin, M.D., a radiologist at Washington Hospital. "Mammograms have increased the detection of smaller breast cancers, which have improved longevity of breast cancer survivors. We recommend that patients have a baseline screening mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40 and have annual screenings beginning at age 50."

Women who are between the ages of 40 and 50 or who have a family history of breast cancer should discuss when and how often to have a screening mammogram with their physician. According to the National Cancer Institute, several large studies conducted around the world show that breast cancer screening with mammograms reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer for women ages 40 to 69, especially those over age 50.

Dr. Lin notes that these general guidelines only apply to women who do not have abnormal physical findings and have not experienced pain or other breast-related abnormalities. Anyone experiencing symptoms should visit their doctor immediately.

Make an appointment sooner rather than later

Despite the health benefits of routine screenings, Dr. Lin says that many patients put off making an appointment for their screening mammogram because they are frightened of what they might find.

"Women are sometimes afraid of what they're going to find out," Dr. Lin says. "They should not be afraid of the test; it is not painful, just briefly uncomfortable. In all cases, it is better to detect cancer early. The earlier we detect cancer, the better the outcome."

Occasionally, women who come in for a routine screening mammogram may be called back in for additional films, but Dr. Lin cautions that this is not cause for panic.

"When screening for breast cancer, we will call more things abnormal than will truly be abnormal because we want to be extra careful," Dr. Lin says. "A lot of women get very frightened when they get called back for additional films, but that does not necessarily mean there is a malignancy."

Additional testing might be necessary to ensure that the initial impressions are, indeed, accurate, according to Dr. Lin. When screening for breast cancer, it is always better to be "safe than sorry."

Dr. Lin, calls mammograms "a minute's worth of pain for a lifetime worth of gain," and reminds patients that minor discomfort and anxiety over results will never outweigh the benefit of early detection and peace of mind.

"Mammograms are good preventive maintenance," Dr. Lin says.

Outpatient imaging expands for a healthier you

Last year, Washington Township Health Care District Board of Directors voted to approve moving forward with the development of a state-of-the-art Women's Health Center and Outpatient Imaging Center. The new facilities are expected to open in November 2006 and will be located within the Washington West building, which is across the street from Washington Hospital at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

The Outpatient Imaging Center and Women's Health Center will provide community residents with a centralized setting for outpatient CT, mammography, diagnostic radiology and ultrasound services.

Schedule Your Mammogram Appointment Today
Mammogram appointments require a physician's order and referral. Screening mammography is performed at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Ave, Suite 212A. To find out more or to schedule your mammogram appointment, call (510) 791-3410.

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