Procrastination is common amongst women when it comes to taking care of their own health, but during October and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the time to take action is now. Fewer women are dying from breast cancer due to early detection, which is why the American Cancer Society recommends women 40 years and older perform monthly self-exams, get annual check-ups with a physician, and schedule yearly mammograms.
Scheduling a mammogram appointment is easy, thanks to Fort HealthCare’s online appointment request. Evening and weekend time slots are available to accommodate busy women. Cathy Hovel, Manager of the Radiology Department at Fort Memorial Hospital, says “We don’t want bad timing to be an excuse for why a woman doesn’t get a mammogram. We’re doing everything possible to work within women’s busy schedules so they can have this potentially life-saving exam.”
Hovel acknowledges that many women fear the unknown, and are concerned about discomfort during the exam. “A mammogram is just an x-ray,” she explains. “When you get a mammogram, you stand next to the machine, and a specially trained technologist helps place your breast on a plastic plate. A second piece of plastic is placed on top, and for a few seconds, the top piece of plastic is pushed down and flattens the breast to get a good, clear picture. Two pictures are usually taken of each breast. There is mild discomfort for a very brief period, but patients are offered a MammoPad for a softer, warmer, more comfortable mammogram.”
To make the experience go as smoothly as possible, technologists recommend that women avoid scheduling a mammogram just before their periods when breasts are most tender. Wearing comfortable clothing, such as a shirt and pants is also recommended, since patients are asked to undress above the waist. The whole exam usually takes about 15 minutes or less.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly eight out of ten breast cancers occur in women over age 50. A woman of 70 is almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer in the next year as a woman of 50. The risk is greater if a close relative has had cancer, but only about 20 percent to 30 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with the disease.
To schedule a mammogram, patients may call the Fort HealthCare Radiology Department at 920.568.5420 or log on to www.FortHealthCare.com/mammo. As thanks for taking time to care for themselves, the Radiology Department is offering women a small gift upon completion of their exams.
In addition, women with limited or no health insurance may qualify for a free mammogram through the Jefferson County Health Department. Vouchers are available by calling 920.674.7193.