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Oregon Family Magazine

Raising the Pink Flag

10/05/2022 ● By Oregon Medical Group
Since October was designated National Breast Cancer Awareness month many years ago, we’ve all made the shift from blushing when the topic of breast cancer surfaces, to knowing how common it is and how easily it can be addressed if found early. And since 3D mammography became standard, women have received fewer ‘call backs’ for a second look, and the accuracy of
the screenings has improved many times over. Still, women tend to postpone this important preventative health screening. Combined with the appointments missed over the pandemic, the team at Oregon Medical Group believes it’s important to raise the pink flag higher, to encourage women not just to be aware of breast cancer, but to actually get an appointment on their calendars.

If you came of mammogram age over the last few years and postponed scheduling yours, here’s a run-down of what you should know about breast health and screenings:

When to start: The guidelines for when to start your breast cancer screenings are not simply age-based, as they used to be. Variables include your family health history, your medical history and your age. If you are under 40, but have a family history of breast cancer, you should speak with your doctor now so that you have a plan for screenings that reflects your risk level. Otherwise, in general, if you are 40 or older and you haven’t had a mammogram in the past year, you may be due. The frequency of your scans is something you should discuss with your primary care provider or OB/GYN.

What to expect: Mammograms used to be a bit painful because the compression required for imaging was applied for longer. Since 3D mammograms, most women report only mild discomfort. Mammograms are also much faster than they used to be. You’ll probably spend more time getting to your appointment than actually being screened! (Practical advice: It sounds silly, but the best advice we share in preparation for a mammogram is to be sure to wear a two-piece outfit. You’ll be asked to remove your top and bra and without a bottom half it’s a bit cold!)

Timelines: These days, getting the results from your mammogram is really fast – especially at Oregon Medical Group. The results of your scan appear in your MyChart account as soon as the image has been reviewed. We know how stressful it can be to wait, so prioritize getting the information to you quickly.

Types of mammograms: Some women have experienced being sent for a diagnostic mammogram rather than a screening mammogram. This imaging uses the same x-ray technology, but the diagnostic mammogram will focus on an area of the breast that your provider thinks should receive a special look. For example, if she found a lump during your annual exam, extra diligence will be taken to evaluate this area with mammography and possibly ultrasound.

Other types of breast imaging: One of the reasons we’ve made such good progress in the fight against breast cancer is that we have a suite of imaging tools that can be used according to a woman’s unique physiology. For example, a woman with dense breast tissue and some level of higher risk might be screened using an MRI. Ultrasounds are also put to work to check on specific areas of concern. Sometimes you’ll be sent for a diagnostic mammogram paired with an ultrasound. If you find yourself with questions about the technology, ask your doctor to explain.

Screening shouldn’t be scary: Taking control of your health is the most powerful act you can take for a long and healthy life. Screenings give you the chance to find things – and take care of them – early. In the case of breast cancer, finding it early makes a significant difference not just in the long-term outcome, but it also allows for much less invasive treatments.

How to get started: Use your regular preventive checkup to discuss your breast cancer screening plan with your doctor. With your medical records, family history, knowledge about your lifestyle and a good conversation, your doctor can get you started and even connect you with the Oregon Medical Group Women’s Imaging Department. From then on, your breast screenings can help you feel confident each year when the pink ribbon campaigns kick off!