October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You might be asking yourself, what can I do to help this important cause? Many things. But perhaps most important of all – make sure you and all your loved ones stay up to date with your mammograms.
Why are they so important?
Mammograms are X-rays of the breast – and they truly save lives. They detect cancer and other issues early, when they’re easiest to treat. According to a study funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), women who stay up to date on their mammograms have a significantly lower risk of dying of breast cancer if they end up getting the disease. In fact, even missing one mammogram can raise your chances of death. We don’t want to scare you – but this information is key for spreading the word about how important these screenings are.
Who should get mammograms – and how often?
According to the ACS, women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year, while those 55 and older can switch to every two years or continue yearly screenings. Women at higher risk of breast cancer should start getting mammograms before age 45. You can reach out to your doctor for more specifics.
Spread the word.
This article really has two messages. First, get your regular mammograms. Second, make sure your loved ones do too. For various reasons, many women skip their mammograms on certain years – or never get them altogether. Both can be harmful. Be open and talk with your loved ones, reminding them to stay up to date on these important screenings. Here are some tips and conversation starters:
- Some people simply don’t know how important mammograms are. Share facts and articles (like this one and those linked below) to give them the education they need.
- Others simply forget to schedule it every year. Let’s face it – there’s a lot on our calendars to remember. Be that “calendar reminder” for your loved ones, because a mammogram is one yearly event they should definitely not miss.
- For those without a primary care doctor – and those who don’t keep up on their annual physicals or wellness checks – it’s even easier to forget or skip mammograms. Help your loved ones get set up with a primary care doctor.
- Many people get anxious or worried about medical tests. Let them know how easy it is to schedule and get a mammogram, and how the benefits greatly outweigh any discomfort or hassle.
- Some people think they don’t need mammograms unless they have symptoms or a history of cancer in the family. Let them know that mammograms are important for catching cancer in its early stages (before symptoms can be felt or seen), and that all women are at risk for the disease.
- Many people worry about the cost of medical tests. You can point them to possible financial help – for example, many hospitals offer cost assistance for those who need it, and you often only need to call the hospital and fill out some paperwork.
- Finally, if you’re a woman, share your own experience about getting your regular mammograms and why it’s important to you. Firsthand advice is always valued.
Perhaps the best advice of all? Simply speak from the heart. Tell them how much you love them and care about them. This month and beyond, spread the word – your voice can truly save lives.
To learn more about breast cancer – and the importance of mammograms – check out these links:
- Listen to our podcast about five things every woman should know about breast cancer.
- Learn how you can spread awareness about breast cancer.
- Young women can get breast cancer too – get important information in this article from Reid Health.
- Check out this podcast from Riverside Healthcare about the importance of breast cancer screening and awareness, and watch this short video from Springfield Clinic on the same topic.
- Should you worry about dense breast tissue? See this article from OSF HealthCare.
- Can exercise help lower your risk of breast cancer? Check out this short article from our friends at FirstHealth of the Carolinas.