"Mammograms matter," says the American Cancer Society in big letters on its website. "Getting a mammogram is one of the best things a woman can do to protect her health. This simple test can find breast cancers early, when they're smaller, easier to treat, and chances of survival are higher."
And that's a major reason why the Woman's Clinic now is offering screening mammography services onsite, said Dr. Brad Adkins, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist at the clinic. "After age 40, women should have a mammogram every year."
Not every woman, though, reaches that goal. "Life is busy," he says, "and women often make their health a low priority."
"Most moms work. Many have to take a half day off to come to the doctor for their annual Pap smear. Ask them to do that again for a mammogram and many women can't." It's not unusual for a patient to not show up at her mammogram appointment.
The Woman's Clinic is now scheduling a patient's mammogram to occur while she is at the clinic for her annual exam, said Dr. Adkins. It's that convenience that was the second major reason the Woman's Clinic invested in mammography equipment. The clinic also is scheduling mammograms for patients who just want the convenience of going to the clinic, but who do not need to schedule an annual exam. "When they call, we'll try to get them scheduled that day."
"One in eight women will get breast cancer," he says. Genetic syndromes account for up to 10 percent of breast cancers; for the other 90 percent, breast cancer will be a random event.
The Woman's Clinic is offering a baseline screening mammogram, which is done to check for breast cancer in patients who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. The screening mammogram generally involves getting two x-ray views of each breast. The x-rays make it possible to detect tumors that can't be felt. They also can find tiny deposits of calcium that sometimes indicate breast cancer. "Mammograms have gotten better with digital technology," Dr. Adkins says.
The Woman's Clinic is working with the physicians of Jackson Radiology Associates to look at the mammogram x-rays quickly so patients don't wait long for the results, said Dr. Adkins. "Our goal is a 24-hour turnaround; we don't want patients worried. We want any problems addressed and taken care of as soon as possible."
If something suspicious is found on the screening mammogram, a woman will be sent to the Imaging Center for a diagnostic mammogram, which is more detailed and requires additional views of the breast.
"Patients will still be getting the same quality of care in the reading of their mammograms and their followup diagnostic mammograms as they have had in the past," he said.
If the diagnostic mammogram confirms a problem, the patient will be sent to a general surgeon for a possible biopsy.
The digital mammography equipment, located in a suite on the basement floor of the Woman's Clinic, was obtained in partnership with Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, which also owns the Imaging Center. Just as insurance companies will cover mammograms at the Imaging Center, they will cover mammograms at the Woman's Clinic, Dr. Adkins said.
Mammograms are just one part of the tool for early detection of breast cancer, he adds. Patients should also have a breast exam by a physician annually and then do self breast exams monthly. Dr. Adkins suggests doing the self exam the week after one's period when the breasts are not as tender and lumpy. "After performing regular self breast exams, a woman will know how her breasts feel normally and whether there's been any change."
"Patients are tickled that we have the screening mammography equipment," he adds. "I am excited because our patients are excited. Medically, I am also encouraged because I expect the convenience will help patients be more compliant with their screening."
"The more patients that get mammograms, the more cancer will be detected early and then treated successfully. I want us to make a difference in breast cancer."