Contact: Marion Ciciarelli
The physicians and staff of Oswego Health will take part in activities throughout October that promote national Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Perhaps the most important action community members can take is to encourage the women they know to undergo a mammogram.
Oswego Health Radiology Chief Matthew Westpfal, MD, recommends that women undergo a yearly mammogram beginning at age 40. “I support the American Cancer guidelines that recommend an annual mammogram for women aged 40 and older,” Dr. Westpfal said. “A digital mammogram is one of the most important tools physicians have to diagnose breast cancer,” he said. “Early breast cancer detection through mammography likely results in improved outcomes.” He further encourages women to undergo a yearly clinical breast exam that can be done by their provider.
Dr. Westpfal added, with today’s technology, a mammogram radiation dose is at a very low level, making it safe to undergo.
In women at high risk for breast cancer, which includes women who have a family history, it may be best to begin having mammogram screenings even sooner. To learn at what age you should start having a mammogram, consult your physician.
Mammograms are specialized x-rays of the breast that can reveal tumors before they can be felt. Many studies have shown that early detection saves lives and increases treatment options, according to theACS.
Digital mammography uses a computer instead of x-ray film to store breast images. It allows a doctor to look at the x-ray image from different views or magnify sections for a closer look. Digital mammography also allows doctors to view potential areas of concern in women who have dense breast tissue with greater accuracy than regular mammograms provide.
In addition to offering digital mammogram services, Oswego Hospital can perform breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), adding one more diagnostic tool in the fight against breast cancer.
A breast MRI is one of the latest technologies available to assist in the detection of breast cancer. This new technology allows radiologists to see abnormalities that sometimes cannot be seen on either a mammogram or ultrasound. Specialized software assists radiologists with the interpretation of the approximately 1,200 images created during a single study.
The breast MRI takes about 20 minutes and entails the use of an intravenous contrast. A physician referral is required.
Determining your risk
According to the ACS, a woman is at high risk for breast cancer if she has:
- A known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
- A 1st-degree relative (mother, father, brother, sister or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
- A history of chest radiation therapy between ages 10 and30.
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome or a 1st-degree relative with 1 of these syndromes.
- A 20 to 25 percent or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer because of other factors (usually family history).
A woman is at moderately high risk for breast cancer if she has a 15 to 20 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer, a personal history of breast cancer or a precancerous breast condition, or breast tissue that appears dense on mammograms.
To learn more about your potential risk, consult your physician.
Oswego Health offers convenient digital mammography and MRI screening appointments throughout Oswego County, including the Oswego Health Services Center, the Central Square and Fulton Medical Centers and at the Pulaski Health Center. To make a mammography screening appointment call 349-5540.
Photo Cutline: Lynn Mieczkowski, from the Fulton Medical Center mammography department, encourages women who haven’t scheduled their mammogram to please call and set up an appointment.