Screening mammograms are so important because 1 out of every 8 women is likely to develop breast cancer in her lifetime. These tests can often detect early breast cancer before signs and symptoms appear.
An annual mammogram is recommended by the American Cancer Society for all women over 40. You may be at higher risk if:
- You are age 50 or older.
- Your mother or sister(s) have had breast cancer.
- You have already had cancer in one breast.
- You have had a prior breast biopsy.
Mammography is useful because it can show breast tumors too small to be felt. However, about 10% of tumors are not visible on mammograms and can only be found by physical examination. That’s why an exam by a primary care provider is important before the mammogram.
Regular self breast examinations are encouraged between screening mammograms. Please discuss your risk factors with your doctor, especially if you have a previous history of breast cancer or a family history of the disease. If you see any change such as a lump, discharge, dimpling or anything unusual, contact your provider.
Sometimes after your initial mammogram, you'll get a call or letter asking you to return for additional special views or an ultrasound study. This should not be cause for concern because women are called back fairly often. It simply indicates an area on the film needs to be looked at more closely.
Mammogram results are filed by Gundersen for 10 years. The films may be compared with future mammograms to determine whether any significant changes can be seen.
Digital Breast Tomosynthesis
The Norma J. Vinger Center for Breast Care now offers digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), which provides a more accurate view to standard digital mammography. Think of breast tomosynthesis as a three-dimensional mammogram with multiple images taken of the entire breast rather than just one. It allows our specialized breast radiologists to see layers of tissue that may normally be hidden and look at areas of concern from multiple angles.
Studies have shown that DBT:
- Detects some cancers more readily, resulting in earlier diagnosis which, in turn, may result in less aggressive treatment and better outcomes
- Decreases the number of patients called back for additional testing (false positives), resulting in less anxiety and decreased costs
Anyone who is due for a standard mammogram can elect to have a DBT. Currently, DBT is offered in La Crosse only at the Norma J. Vinger Center for Breast Care.
Medicare and Gundersen Health Plan cover payment for DBT. If you have private insurance by a different company, be sure to ask if DBT is a covered benefit before scheduling an appointment. If DBT is not covered but you would like to have it, the out-of-pocket fee is $75.
Call the Center for Breast Care to schedule a DBT. If you have questions, talk to your primary care provider.
Mammography is a department of Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center.