Healthy Breast Screening Practices

As women, we have learned what’s required to take care of ourselves, and that includes getting screened for various types of cancers, including breast cancer. While we might be hard pressed to find any female who enjoys getting a mammogram, it’s much easier to find cancer survivors with a 98%, five-year survival rate due to early breast cancer detection.

The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 232,340 cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually, and 40% of these cases are diagnosed because a woman felt a lump in her breast. When we consider that 1 in every 8 females will be diagnosed with breast cancer, we find the motivation we need to get screened regularly. Watch our video.

Learn More About Breast Screening

As we age, the kinds of screenings we need and the frequency of those screenings evolves. Our gender, family history, preexisting conditions and lifestyle choices may make us more susceptible to certain types of cancer, so regular screenings should be a priority.

It’s important to talk with your doctor about the cancer screenings that are right for you.

Breast Cancer Screening Begins at Home

Early detection of breast cancer starts with making breast care a priority, and breast care starts at home. No one knows your body like you do. You might think that you only need to look for bumps or lumps, but changes in breast shape, discharge, hardening/thickening of the tissue, or new focal pain are all symptoms to lookout for.

Know how your breasts normally look and feel and report any new breast changes to a health professional, including:

  • A lump in the underarm area
  • Lumps in or on the breast
  • Swelling of all or part of the breast; feels hard, warm or tender
  • Unexplained shrinkage of one or both breasts
  • Change in breast color
  • Skin irritation, itching or dimpling
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple pain, change in appearance, or the nipple turning inward
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk

More than 96 percent of women with breast cancer are cured if it is detected and treated early. Following these guidelines improves the chances that breast cancer can be found at an early stage and treated with success.

Screening Mammograms at BayCare

The best line of defense in breast health care is getting regular screenings, and a mammogram is the best screening tool available.  This safe, low-dose X-ray can detect changes in the breast before any symptoms appear or can be felt.  There are two types of mammograms - those used as a screening tool before you have symptoms and those used as a diagnostic tool, ordered on an as-needed basis for further evaluation.  Breast cancer is most treatable when tumors are found early, so scheduling your regular screening mammogram plays a key role in monitoring your breast health.

Talk with your physician about your risks to learn when it is best to begin these exams. Your potential risk may determine when you should have your first mammogram and how often you need to have them.  If you have a strong history of breast cancer in your family, your doctor may advise that you begin mammography before age 40.

To schedule an appointment at one of BayCare's 15 Outpatient Breast Imaging Centers located throughout the Greater Tampa Bay Region, call (888) 906-8892 or schedule your screening mammogram online.

3D Mammography: How It Works

Mammography has gone through several evolutions to help give doctors and patients a clearer picture, which could lead to an early diagnosis. If discovered in its earliest stages, the chances of surviving breast cancer are good.

Until recently, digital mammography was used as a method of early detection. Digital mammography uses a specially designed camera and computer to produce an image on a high-resolution monitor. While this is still a widely practiced diagnostic test, a two-dimensional image can make it difficult to see tiny spots called microcalcifications, which can be an early sign of breast cancer.

The benefit of 3D mammography, or breast tomosynthesis, is that it allows all layers of breast tissue to be examined, one at a time. The breast is positioned in the same way as a conventional mammogram and a small amount of pressure is applied to keep the breast steady while the image is taken. In 7 short seconds, 11 images are taken, which form a clear, highly focused 3-dimensional image.

This technique has offered a variety of benefits including a more comfortable exam, an improvement in lesion size, and a decrease in secondary scans or biopsies.

3D mammography has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is available at most of BayCare’s Outpatient Breast Imaging Centers

Preparing for Your Mammogram

  • Avoid using perfume, lotion, powder, or deodorant on or near your breasts on the day of the test, since those substances can interfere with getting a clear picture.
  • When you arrive at the breast imaging center, you'll be escorted to a private changing area and asked to undress from the waist up and put on a soft robe, with an opening at the front.
Once you're in the examining room, the technologist will probably take four images of your breasts: a top view and a side view of each breast. For each image, you will remove one sleeve of the robe to expose just the breast being X-rayed. The technologist will position the breast on a platform and then a pane of Plexiglas will come down, or sideways, to compress the breast. You'll have to hold very still, during this time, you may feel the sensation of being "pinched," but the process is very quick.
  • If you are having a diagnostic mammogram, a radiologist will review your images right away.
  • If you are having a screening mammogram, your results will be available in 24-48 hours.

If the radiologist sees an area of concern, a few things can happen. If you were here for a screening mammogram, you may be called back and a technologist will take more images of your breast, and/or you may be scheduled for a breast ultrasound or biopsy. After additional images are taken, your results will be available that same day. Most of the time, the images will give the team all the information needed. If there remains reason for concern, the next step will be a biopsy.