The practice of radiology plays a big part in nearly every person’s life at one point or another, whether it is getting an x-ray to assess an injury or a routine screening for early cancer detection. For women, one recommended screening is mammography, which has been shown to catch many breast cancers too small or deep inside tissue to be felt during a breast self-exam. While the rate of breast cancer continues to impact 1 in 8 women during her lifetime, the rate of related deaths has dropped substantially, demonstrating the effectiveness of screening mammography as a way to discover cancer early, when it can be most easily and effectively treated. The American College of Radiology recommends annual screening for women beginning at age 40. Women with an added risk factor, such as a close relative with breast cancer, may want to begin screening at age 35. The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 45-54 receive mammograms every year, while women 55 and older can elect to have them every two years.

Advances in Technology

Since screening mammography became widely used in the 1970s, it has evolved greatly. Today, there’s Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, an FDA-approved exam that provides highly views of breast tissue from multiple angles to capture even tiny cancers before they have a chance to spread. Unlike standard mammography, 3D mammography is sophisticated enough to image dense breast tissue, which affects roughly 47% of women. Compared to standard mammography, 3D detail delivers 41% better discovery of invasive breast cancers and a 40% reduction in false positive results, reducing anxiety and the need for follow-up testing.

While most women understand the importance of regular mammography screening, many put it off because the breast compression involved is uncomfortable. That’s why Radiology Associates uses the SmartCurve™ Breast Stabilization System, which provides a curved platform that aligns with the breast. 93% of women surveyed found it more comfortable than standard mammography, and 80% said it would encourage them to have mammograms on schedule, preventing potentially dangerous delays.

Diagnostic Care

When something questionable shows up on a mammogram, there’s breast MRI, a non-invasive, radiation-free supplemental test that highlights breast tissues to differentiate benign abnormalities from cancer. MRI can also provide an additional screening exam for high-risk patients. MRI, as well as CT, ultrasound and stereotactic x-ray imaging, are also used for image-guided biopsy, a test where questionable cells are collected using a fine needle. This outpatient exam delivers concrete answers, enabling treatment when needed.

Other women’s imaging services include pelvic ultrasound and DEXA bone density scanning for osteoporosis detection and management.

With the right information, women can win the battle against diseases like breast cancer and live their most fulfilling lives. If you’re due for a screening mammogram, make an appointment with your provider today.

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