Breast Cancer Screening
We’ve all heard the statistics: one in every eight women can expect to develop breast cancer in her lifetime. But did you know that this scary statistic also shows that 7 of every 8 women (almost 90 percent of them) will NEVER get breast cancer?
Many factors beyond our control can increase breast cancer risk; age and genetics are chief among them. But there are steps women can take to decrease their risk of getting breast cancer and important things they can do to ensure that if breast cancer develops, it is caught early, when it is most treatable.
Get a Mammogram
Mammograms are x-ray images of the breast. They are effective breast cancer screening tools, helpful in finding finding breast tumors that are too small to feel or see. Mammograms can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. This type of mammogram is called a screening mammogram. If you are age 40 or older, you should schedule a breast cancer screening mammogram every 1 to 2 years. Women who are at higher-than-average risk for breast cancer should talk with their health care providers about whether to begin mammograms before age 40 and how often to have them. Learn more...
To schedule a mammogram call (860) 714-9729, or schedule an appointment online.
The Hoffman Breast Health Center at Saint Francis is accredited to provide mammography services by the FDA under the Mammography Quality Standards Act, MQSA.
What to expect:
- On the day of your appointment, please do not use deodorant. Particles from the deodorant sometimes show up on the mammogram. If you do wear deodorant, we will provide wipes so you can remove it prior to your exam.
- The mammogram is performed by a registered radiologic technologist. Mammography technologists receive special training to perform mammograms. Their training, continuing experience and education is mandated by the FDA under the MQSA regulations.
- For a screening bilateral mammogram, each breast is X-rayed from two different angles. For each view, you will be asked to stand close to the machine, so your breast rests on the bottom plate. To keep your breast steady, another plate will be tightened on top of the breast, creating a sort of sandwich. For each view, you will be asked to hold very still while the machine takes a picture of the compressed breast. The breast is compressed for only a few seconds for each view.
- After completing your digital mammogram, the technologist transmits the digital images via a computer to the radiologist located in an adjacent room. The radiologists are doctors who specialize in breast imaging. They have received additional education and training. All of the radiologists at the Hoffman Breast Health Center at Saint Francis are Board Certified by the American College of Radiology.
- Your mammogram will be read while you wait. You will receive your results before you leave. If the radiologist requests additional mammogram views of your breasts, this will be done immediately, eliminating the need for a return visit. This is a unique service provided by Hoffman Breast Health Center.
Additional Mammographic Images:
When radiologists request additional mammography images, they want to get a better look at an area that might be obscured by overlapping or dense breast tissue; or, they may want a closer look at calcifications or a dense area. All patients are anxious when told additional breast imaging has been requested by the radiologist. These images are necessary to enable the radiologist to make an accurate diagnosis. At Hoffman Breast Health Center at Saint Francis, if the radiologist recommends additional mammogram views, those X-rays will be done immediately. The patient will have the final report before she leaves.
Remember, only 3 of every 1,000 women who have screening mammograms are diagnosed with cancer. Based on this data, for many of the patients needing additional mammographic views, the final report is normal/benign.
After reviewing your breast cancer screening mammogram, the radiologist may recommend that further evaluation of an area is needed. This might include a breast ultrasound, a consultation with a breast surgeon, or a breast biopsy. These appointments can be set up immediately. In some cases, the patient can be seen on the same day. For a patient who requires a breast biopsy, the biopsy appointment will be scheduled after the patient has seen a breast surgeon. The physical layout of the breast center allows close collaboration among breast health specialists, radiologists and surgeons. It provides a streamlined process for patients to move between breast imaging services and the surgeons' offices, which are located in the same building.
Mammography is the only breast cancer screening tool that is thought to reduce breast cancer deaths through early detection. Even so, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. Some breast lesions and abnormalities are not visible or are difficult to interpret on mammograms. In breasts that are dense, meaning there are a lot of ducts, glands, and fibrous tissue, with less fat, many cancers can be hard to see on mammography. Studies have shown that ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help supplement mammography by detecting small breast cancers that may not be visible with mammography.
*Connecticut law requires insurance companies to provide coverage for comprehensive ultrasound screening of an entire breast or breasts if a mammogram demonstrates heterogeneous or dense breast tissue based on the BIRADS (Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System) established by the American College of Radiology (ACR).
MRI is more sensitive than ultrasound in depicting breast cancer, but MRI may not be available to all women. If screening MRI is performed, screening ultrasound is not needed, though ultrasound may be used to characterize and biopsy abnormalities seen on MRI. Screening MRIs are restricted to women who have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer or a genetic mutation that predisposes them to breast cancer. Coverage for breast MRI is determined by each patient's health insurance plan.
Clinical Breast Exam
Clinical breast exams are another way to ensure that your breasts are healthy. A clinical breast exam (CBE) is a physical exam done by a healthcare provider. Your provider should carefully feel your breasts and underarm for any changes or abnormalities (such as a lump). He/she should visually check your breasts while you are sitting up and physically examine your breasts while you are lying down. Clinical breast exams are performed by healthcare providers -- a physician, nurse practitioner or other medical staff -- who are well-trained in the technique. Not all providers have this training, so it is important to ask for a clinical breast exam if one is not offered. Clinical breast exam should be part of routine breast cancer screening for women starting at age 20. When you begin having mammograms, clinical exams complement these screenings.
The Hoffman Breast Health Center at Saint Francis offers clinical breast exams and other preventive services to women at higher risk of breast cancer. For an appointment call (860) 714-6970.
Knowledge of your body can be one of your strongest weapons against breast cancer. One way to keep track of changes in your breasts is a regular self exam. This includes looking in the mirror for changes you can see, and feeling the texture of your breasts so you know what is normal and if something changes. How to perform a breast self exam...
Know what is normal for you and see your healthcare provider if you notice any of these breast changes:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast
- Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening of the breast
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge or bleeding that starts suddenly
- New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
For more information or to make an appointment, contact the Hoffman Breast Health Center at Saint Francis at (860) 714-6970.
Sources: National Cancer Institute, Susan G. Komen for the Cure