Taking charge of your breast health is very important. Dr. Christina Clemow, section chief of breast imaging and intervention at MetroHealth, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about breast health.
Q: What are the current recommendations on breast screenings?
A: First and foremost, all women should conduct monthly breast self-examinations to check for lumps or any abnormalities in their breasts. Likewise, the breast specialists at MetroHealth recommend yearly screening mammograms starting at the age of 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, you may meet with our breast clinic team and genetic counselors to determine if you are at higher risk for developing breast cancer. If so, you may benefit from additional screening exams, such as MRI.
Q: What is a screening mammogram?
A: A screening mammogram is a yearly x-ray exam of the breasts for women that are not showing signs of breast disease. It is important to get your yearly mammogram, so we can find early breast cancers before they have spread and we have the best chance at successful treatment.
At MetroHealth, standard protocol for a screening mammogram consists of a 2D digital mammogram and 3D breast tomosynthesis, which is a 3D mammogram that takes multiple images through your breast and allows the radiologist to look through the breast like pages in a book. 3D mammography is available at all of our centers offering mammography and this comes at no extra charge to the patient.
Q: What is a diagnostic mammogram?
A: A woman has a diagnostic mammogram when she is having breast symptoms such as feeling a lump, nipple discharge or skin changes. Also, a diagnostic mammogram may be requested if the radiologists need to take additional images of a specific area of your breast or if they feel an ultrasound may be helpful to investigate an area that may be abnormal.
At MetroHealth, our diagnostic mammogram services are personalized with our onsite radiologists working through each individual case. We offer real-time results, giving you peace of mind and allowing you to leave your visit with an answer. If you require further testing or a biopsy, one of our doctors will personally meet with you during your appointment and advise you on the plan.
Q: What does it mean to have dense breasts?
A: When you have dense breasts, it means that your breasts are made up of more fibroglandular tissue than fat. This is important because when we look at a mammogram, fibroglandular tissue appears white and so does cancer. Though mammograms are a great tool, if you have dense breasts there is a chance that your breast cancer may be obscured and we won't be able to identify it. 40% of women have dense breasts, and women with dense breasts have a 4-6 times greater risk of developing breast cancer.
Q: How do you know if you have dense breasts?
Your breast density is determined by a breast radiologist when they read your mammogram. As of December 19, 2014, Ohio is the 20th state in the US that requires patients to be notified when they have dense breasts, They will receive formal notifications in the mail. Women with dense breasts have an option for additional ultrasound screening that may identify a cancer not visible via mammogram. While cancer appears white on a mammogram, cancer is black amongst the dense breast tissue on an ultrasound. A new technology for breast ultrasound screening you may hear about is automated breast ultrasound (ABUS). ABUS was specifically developed to help doctors find cancers hidden in dense breast tissue, which may be missed by mammography. It uses sound waves to create 3D pictures of the breast tissue. MetroHealth is the first hospital in Northeast Ohio to offer this technology.
Q: What does Metrohealth's Breast Center have to offer?
A: We have a multidisciplinary team supporting breast health, which includes radiologists, surgeons, oncologists and even genetic counselors. We offer a personalized approach to diagnosing and treating benign and malignant breast disease. A nurse navigator is available to help patients and their families facilitate their breast health needs. We offer breast health services at multiple locations throughout Cuyahoga County. To learn more, or to make an appointment, call 216-957-BRST (2778) or visit metrohealth.org/breast.