Although approximately 40,000 people die of breast cancer annually, the breast cancer rate has dropped by 30 percent over the past 30 years. This significant reduction in the mortality rate is thought to be due to preventive measures, including early detection methods such as mammography. Physicians agree that mammography is essential in the early detection of breast cancer.
Age, race, obesity, family history and other factors can increase the likelihood of a person developing breast cancer. Discussing these factors with a physician will help in developing an individualized plan for early detection.
Certain lifestyle changes such as limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active all can reduce the likelihood of developing breast cancer.
Annual mammograms are highly recommended for all women over the age of 40. Depending on family history and predisposing factors, doctors might recommend earlier or more frequent mammograms to monitor any changes in the breast tissue. Other diagnostic tests may be recommended based on the patient’s perceived risk for developing cancer.
In addition to having annual mammograms, women also should be aware of the look and feel of the breast tissues. Changes in the size and shape of the breasts can be indicators of cancer, as can abnormal discharge from the nipples and the development of lumps.
Although mammography is one of the leading early detection methods for breast cancer, some view it as inconvenient. Advances in technology, however, have enabled radiologists to employ faster and more accurate imaging techniques.
Many women are accustomed to the traditional methods of mammography that capture images of the breast tissue on X-ray film. The benefits of digital mammography, however, are overwhelming. Digital mammography technology, such as the equipment at Northern Nevada Medical Center, allows doctors to obtain computerized images of breast tissues in a matter of seconds.
Traditional film can be damaged, scratched or lost before the physician can examine the images, which leads to retakes and more discomfort for the patient. Digital images, on the other hand, are stored easily on a computer and can be transferred quickly to other caregivers.
Digital technology captures high-resolution images, enabling doctors to enhance the contrast, brightness and clarity of the images to ensure detection of even the smallest abnormality. Doctors also are able to zoom in on areas of concern that require further examination. The ability to refine the images has led to more accurate diagnoses of tissue abnormalities than was possible previously with traditional film images.
Another benefit over traditional X-ray film is the ability to manipulate images to ensure accuracy. Small abnormalities called microcalcifications are easier to diagnose with digital technology because doctors can zoom in on an area. Previously with X-ray film, patients would have to return for a retake of the images to confirm any issues. This could prove time-consuming, stressful and expensive for the patient. With digital mammography, these return visits rarely are necessary.
Northern Nevada Medical Center has joined the fight against breast cancer by offering discounted digital mammography as a tool for early detection. The medical professionals at NNMC are dedicated to making early screening as comfortable, efficient and affordable as possible.
During May, the Diagnostic Breast Care Center at NNMC is to offering digital mammograms for a reduced rate of $155 — nearly half the standard rate — if you pay at the time of service. Now is the time to start taking an active role in your health. Call 356-5800 to schedule your annual mammogram and start fighting back against breast cancer.
Randall Pierce, MD, is the medical director for diagnostic imaging at Northern Nevada Medical Center. He earned his medical degree from the University of California at San Francisco, and he completed his residency at U.C. San Diego.