Posted on: May 13, 2015
Sandra Lee’s Diagnosis Has Many Women Asking: Should I Get a Mammogram?
Dr. Bonnie Litvack, Medical Director of the Women’s Imaging Center at Northern Westchester Hospital, answers questions many women have about when to start getting mammograms in light of the news that Food Network star and author Sandra Lee, who is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s partner, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
When should I start getting routine mammograms?
I, along with the American Cancer Society, recommend women start getting annual mammograms at the age of 40. I know there are differing opinions, but there is not a high incidence of breast cancer before the age of 40. There are some exceptions, of course, which I explain below.
What if I have a history of breast cancer in my family? Should I start getting mammograms earlier?
If you have a family history of breast cancer, whether it is your mother, aunt, or grandmother on either side of the family, you should start getting mammograms 10 years earlier than the age your family member was diagnosed. For example, if your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, you should begin to get mammograms at age 25. However, 25 is the youngest age that I would recommend a woman get a mammogram. If your mother was diagnosed at age 30, I’d still recommend you begin getting mammograms at age 25.
What if I feel a lump in my breast?
Call your doctor and make an appointment. Your doctor will make recommendations about next steps, including getting a mammogram, if deemed necessary.
How long does a mammogram take, and does it hurt?
Typically a mammogram only takes a few minutes. While some patients experience some discomfort, they are in the minority, and if they feel any pain, we manage it.
What if I have no family history of breast cancer? Do I still need to get mammograms?
Absolutely. In fact, 75%-80% of breast cancer diagnoses are with women with no family history.
How effective are mammograms?
They are very effective. Since 1990, mammograms have helped decrease the death rate among breast cancer patients by 15%-40% depending on which studies you read. That is an impressive and encouraging number given that up until 1980, the death rate was steady. Mammograms are an incredibly effective tool to detect breast cancer early, or to rule it out.
Under the leadership of Dr. Bonnie Litvak, the Women’s Imaging Center at Northern Westchester Hospital has been acclaimed as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. She is fellowship trained in MRI and has extensive experience in all aspects of women’s imaging, including mammography.
Northern Westchester Hospital also offers 3-D mammography.