Published: Oct. 3, 2012
Updated: Oct. 19, 2012
The last thing that should prevent you from having a mammogram is misinformation. Yet many myths persist about mammograms, including who needs them, when to get one, and how effective they are. Here, Jay Baker, M.D., Division Chief of Breast Imaging at Duke University Medical Center, busts the myths that surround mammograms. Read these facts, then share them with your friends and family to make sure they have the most accurate information.
Fact: About 30 percent of breast cancers are missed by screening mammograms.
The main cause of false results is high breast density. Breasts contain both dense tissue and fatty issue. False negative results, which mean there is actually a cancer present, occur more often among younger women than older women because breasts tend to lose density with age. Specialists recommend having a clinical breast exam to accompany mammograms to detect cancers that may have been missed from the screening.
Digital mammography may increase the accuracy of your mammogram exam, especially for those women with dense breast tissue. Likewise, having your images read by fellowship-trained radiologists improves the accuracy of your mammogram results. All breast radiologists at Duke have completed this year-long fellowship training.
Fact: Women who have a family history of breast cancer should talk with their doctor and consider having a mammogram 10 years before their first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) developed breast cancer. Women with at least a 20 percent lifetime risk by certain factors may also consider screening MRI. Specialty clinics, like the Duke Hereditary Cancer clinic, can also offer assessments and education for cancer patients or people with a family history of cancer or other risk factors.
Fact: Most screening mammograms are covered by private insurance without copayments or deductibles, but women should contact their health insurance provider to confirm the cost and their coverage.
Fact: Implants can sometimes hide breast tissue, making it more difficult for the radiologist to detect an abnormality on the mammogram, but women with breast implants should still continue to have mammograms. It is important to let your provider know about implants when scheduling a mammogram.
Fact: A screening mammogram is performed as an annual breast check on women with no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. A diagnostic mammogram is ordered when a patient has a sign or symptom such as a lump that can be felt, nipple discharge from one breast or when a radiologist sees something suspicious. Radiologists with specialized training in breast imaging use a variety of techniques to detect and diagnose breast cancer, including mammograms, breast ultrasound, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).