FROM LEFT: Dr. Vashti F. Hellein, Mammography; Dr. Jacqueline M. Bernard, Breast Imaging; Jennifer Furry, Senior Center Manager; Marcia Wilson, Director of Operations; Diane Bartolino, Women’s Health Scheduling Specialist & Breast Cancer Survivor; Yvette Smith, Marketing Representative

Since 1985, when the breast cancer awareness campaign was first launched, the month of October has seen pink ribbons appearing on everything from yogurt cups to sports jerseys – but to what effect? Believe it or not, awareness is actually making a difference in breast cancer survival rates. Since the advent of routine screening efforts, breast cancer continues to be caught earlier than before and treated more effectively, lifting the five-year survival rate of localized breast cancer to nearly 100%. And thanks to advances in breast imaging, biopsy and treatment, breast cancer deaths among women over age 50 have seen a significant decline since the campaign was implemented. That’s an amazing start.

Still, there’s work to be done. Breast cancer continues to be the second leading cause of cancer death in women, affecting one in eight, and we can’t stop promoting awareness until that changes. While certain lifestyle changes, such as limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise – especially after menopause – can help reduce your risk, early detection remains the best way to beat breast cancer. When caught before it has a chance to spread, breast cancer can be treated most easily and successfully, with the best chance of preserving healthy breast tissue and the profile you know and love.

TIME IS YOUR FRIEND

Sure, you have a lot going on in your life – family, work, education, volunteerism, social commitments, and the list goes on. And the Covid-19 pandemic only added to the stressors, so who has time to get a mammogram?

You do.

Invasive breast cancers tend to grow and spread quickly, so putting off routine screening until conditions are “perfect” increases the chances that treatment will need to be more aggressive and potentially less effective. Making your regular screening a priority helps to ensure an easier outcome for you, as well as the people who depend on you. After all, your health impacts more than just yourself, and putting your health at the forefront also protects your loved ones, colleagues and cohort. Looking at it from a wider lens, tending to your health is one of the most selfless acts of all. And since the average mammogram takes about 30 minutes from start to finish – less time than a haircut – it’s really not much of an imposition.

BREAST IMAGING GUIDELINES

The American Cancer Society and other health agencies recommend that women at average risk of breast cancer get a baseline mammogram by age 40 to provide a healthy image for comparison with subsequent exams. Women with risk factors such as a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer or genetic markers for breast cancer should consider starting even younger. Women ages 45-54 should have a mammogram every year. Women 55 and older have the option to switch to having a mammogram every two years but may continue to have annual screening for added assurance.

Women at high risk of breast cancer, including those who test positive for BRCA mutations or have a strong family or personal history of certain cancers, may also be advised to include additional screening by having a breast MRI, a supplementary exam that can fill in the gaps of mammography by providing additional multi-directional imaging. Radiation-free MRI is not a substitute for screening mammography but rather an adjunct test that provides auxiliary details of breast tissue. Combined with routine mammography, breast MRI can produce the best chance to catching tiny cancers hidden deep within the breast, even among women with very dense breast tissue.

Routine screening mammography is 100% covered by most insurance providers without a referral, so you can make your own appointment. With a physician’s referral, breast MRI screening may also be covered. Radiology Associates’ helpful staff will be happy to look into your insurance policy so that you understand its coverage benefits.

WHEN MORE INFORMATION IS NEEDED

When a screening mammogram or other test reveals something questionable, it can be unnerving, so speed and accuracy are of paramount concern. Most irregularities are benign, but until you know for sure, anxiety can be high. That’s why Radiology Associates provides supplemental exam options, including MRI and ultrasound and on-site image-guided biopsy for the most rapid response possible. Using the latest in ultrasound, MRI and stereotactic real-time image guidance, multiple biopsy samples can be collected quickly and precisely with minimal invasiveness and discomfort, for quick, accurate answers.

THE RADIOLOGY ASSOCIATES DIFFERENCE

To make mammography more comfortable and encourage regular exams, Radiology Associates has adopted the Hologic® SmartCurve™ Breast Stabilization System. The SmartCurve system contains a curved platform that conforms to the shape of the breast, for less pressure during compression. Combined with the revolutionary Genius™ 3D mammography exam, the system delivers state-of-the-art accuracy that more than 9 out of 10 women surveyed report created an easier, more comfortable experience. Eighty percent of those surveyed said the improved ease of use would encourage them to remain on schedule with future mammograms and avoid potentially unsafe delays in care.

Radiology Associates’ team of highly-skilled, Board-certified radiologists are trained in analyzing images of breast tissue, including very dense breast tissue. It feels good to know that your radiologist has undergone additional focused education and study to achieve ultimate accuracy.

Our breast health team includes dedicated professionals involved in every level of care, from scheduling your appointment to performing your imaging exam to making a diagnosis and consulting with your primary care physician. We share with you a genuine commitment to getting accurate answers as quickly as possible and are devoted to your physical and emotional health every step of the way.

It is our team’s comprehensive understanding, experience, next-generation technologies and genuine caring that have earned Radiology Associates the “Breast Imaging Center of Excellence” designation by the American College of Radiology, an honor bestowed on only a select few women’s healthcare providers in Florida.

Whatever life is presently throwing your way, nothing is more important than your well-being. A few minutes in our care can help ensure that life remains in full bloom for a long time to come.

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