The Importance of Breast Cancer Screening
By Kingman Regional Medical Center Staff
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and an important time to remind everyone about this life-threatening disease. Although breast cancer occurs rarely in men, it is very common among women. In the United States, breast cancer affects 1 in 1000 men and 1 in 8 women.
Breast cancer begins when cells located in the breast start to grow out of control. In time, these abnormal cells can invade other tissues and organs in the body. If not detected and treated in time, breast cancer kills. But, if breast cancer is discovered and treated while the cancer cells are still confined in the breast, most people survive to live full active lives. Finding the disease early can save your life.
Know Your Risk
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and a leading cause of death among women. Regardless of lifestyle or genetics, simply being a woman puts you at risk. As you get older, your chance of getting the disease increases. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your risk is even greater.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about your risk for developing breast cancer and what screening tests are right for you.
When to Screen
Sometimes, breast cancer is discovered after symptoms appear, but often women can experience no symptoms and still have breast cancer. This is why regular screening is so important.
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast. It can show an extremely small tumor before you or your doctor can feel it in a breast exam. Early detection with mammograms saves many thousands of lives each year.
Women with average risk for breast cancer should start getting annual mammograms at age 40. Women younger than 40 with a family history of breast cancer should talk to their doctor about earlier screening.
Studies indicate that mammograms are necessary up to age 77. However, as Americans live longer and healthier lives, it is very likely that screening beyond this age is beneficial.
A good rule of thumb is that mammography is helpful for women with a life expectancy greater than five to seven years. In other words, if you are older than 77 and otherwise healthy, you will still benefit from annual screening. However, it is very important to talk with your primary care provider about what’s best for you.
Most insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid (AHCCCS) cover annual mammograms. But if you don’t have insurance or if your deductible is more than you can afford, you can still get the care you need through Kingman Regional Medical Center’s “Catch It Early” program.
Through this program, all women age 40 and over who live in Mohave County can receive a screening mammogram with no out-of-pocket cost. We will bill your medical insurance, but we’ll cover all co-pays and deductibles. If you do not have medical insurance, we provide the screening mammogram for no cost.
The KRMC Catch It Early program is funded by community contributions and grants. If a mammogram result is abnormal, the program also helps cover diagnostics and other breast health services to women who qualify.
You do not need a doctor’s referral for a screening mammogram if you are over 40 and it has been a year or more since your last mammogram.
For more information or to schedule a mammogram, please contact the KRMC Imaging Center at 928-692-2727.