From an interview with
Dr. W. Shawn Conwell
Medical Director, McLeod Breast Health Center
A mammogram is one of the most useful health tools available to women. McLeod Radiologist Dr. W. Shawn Conwell explains why.
Here’s an overview of Dr. Conwell’s comments:
Simply put, a mammogram is intended to prevent a woman from dying from breast cancer. The best way to prevent dying from breast cancer is to participate in yearly screening mammography.
We recommend that women begin screening mammograms at age 40, then every year, as long as they remain healthy and able to undergo treatment for breast cancer.
However, if a woman has a family history of breast cancer, we recommend that they start screening 10 years prior to a first-degree relative (mother or sister). For example, if a first-degree relative developed breast cancer at age 44, we’d recommend that woman start regular screening at age 34.
One in eight women in their lifetime will be diagnosed with breast cancer is a very often quoted statistic that is correct and accurate, but it seems sort of exaggerated because we are talking about a very long time – over a lifetime – which of course would be over 40 to 50 years beyond age 40.
The best statistics we have about mortality reduction suggest that if a woman participates in a screening mammogram every year, she can expect a 40% reduction in the chance of death from breast cancer. That’s an amazing statistic. And that is absolutely the point. We try to detect breast cancers early when they’re small. We want to prevent them becoming large breast cancers that metastasize and, ultimately, kill the patient. So, we want to find tumors early, when they’re small and treat them locally.
Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, for safety reasons we stopped doing screening mammography, because the CDC recommended stopping these types of elective procedures.
As the COVID numbers declined, we resumed screening mammograms. To keep women safe, we have extended our hours and rearranged our waiting rooms to allow for social distancing. We have also extended the actual appointment times, allowing our technologists time to thoroughly clean the room. Additionally, we do everything we can to prevent women from coming in the Breast Imaging Center and the hospital if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
I do think it’s important that women consider the pandemic, but a woman is probably more at risk going to her local grocery store than coming to get a screening mammogram. Getting mammograms is an absolutely vital component of a woman’s health. We absolutely encourage women to continue their screening mammograms during the pandemic.
To schedule a mammogram, call McLeod Reservations and Scheduling at (843) 777-2095 and choose option 1.
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