Wednesday, July 22, 2015


So why would a woman GOHAVE1? Go have what?  A mammogram.  

Well, It would be nice if we could prevent breast cancer, and it’s thought that by making some lifestyle changes, that women can reduce their risk: exercising moderately, maintaining a healthy body weight (especially after menopause), and minimizing alcohol consumption have all been shown to be beneficial. But that’s not enough. For the women who will get breast cancer regardless, we want to find it as early as possible.

Regular screening mammograms can find cancers earlier, when they are most treatable. In fact, in Canada and in many other parts of the world, women who have screening mammography are 40% less likely to die of breast cancer than women who don't. Reduced mortality is an important reason to GOHAVE1, but there are more.

Smaller cancers can be treated with lumpectomy, so women whose cancer is found on a mammogram are less likely to require mastectomy. And they are less likely to need chemotherapy. And women with small cancers can usually have a “sentinel node biopsy,” and avoid extensive lymph node sampling in the armpit. This is hugely beneficial because a not uncommon complication of the bigger surgery is swelling of the arm and hand called lymphedema, which can require life-long management.

Book your mammogram today by calling 1.844.GO.HAVE1.

Some women mistakenly think that if they don't have a family history of breast cancer, that they are not at risk, and therefore don't need to have mammograms. They're wrong! The majority (75-90%) of women who get breast cancer have no family history. The likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer for an average-risk woman is about 1 in 8. Having a family history confers a greater-than-average risk, though.

 Breast cancer becomes more common as women get older, and the 10-year risk of getting breast cancer for a 40 year old woman is only 1 in 69. But 1 in 6 breast cancers occurs in women in their forties. And 40% of the years of life saved by mammograms are in women in their forties, so it makes sense to start having regular mammograms at age 40.

Some women say they won’t GOHAVE1 because it hurts. It should, but not unbearably and only briefly. The technologist will reduce the compression if you’re overly uncomfortable. So don’t be shy. Tell her!  Women can take a few seconds of being uncomfortable and maybe even endure a little anxiety about it, but I doubt they want to endure a little cancer.

Mammograms are not perfect; there are false positives and false negatives, like with any test. So if you notice a change in your breasts, you should see a doctor, even if you recently had a negative mammogram.

And you shouldn't panic if you are recalled for additional tests after a screening mammogram (easier said than done...) because most women who are recalled do not have cancer. Radiologists who read mammograms are better-safe-than-sorry folks. We’d rather have you come back; usually for just some extra mammogram pictures, sometimes an ultrasound, etc., just to be more sure everything’s fine.  That’s why, as a radiologist, I believe and I know that you should just GOHAVE1 I do.

Dr. Paula B. Gordon, OBC, MD, FRCPC, FSBI

Dr. Gordon is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of British Columbia and is Medical Director of the Sadie Diamond Breast Program at BC Women’s Hospital. She is a member of the Order of British Columbia.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting on the On All Fronts blog! We'd love to read your feedback on this post.