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3 reasons why you put off your mammogram, and why you shouldn’t

In a world riddled with breast cancer diagnoses, there is some good news. The survival rates from breast cancer have been increasing since 1989, especially for women under 50. That’s in large part due to more treatment options, increased awareness and, perhaps most importantly, earlier detection through screening.

Despite advances in detection and treatment, the statistics are still sobering. One in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. This year, about 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women are expected to be breast cancers. And family history of the disease nearly doubles the risk although many women (and men) have breast cancer without any family history.[1]

Regardless of the prevalence of the disease, many women put off getting screened. Here are three reasons you, a friend or a loved one might put off getting screened, and why you shouldn’t.

1. Unnecessary call-backs and the anxiety they create

False positives—a situation in which a mammogram shows an area that looks like cancer but ends up being normal—not only result in unnecessary follow-ups and more expensive, invasive testing, but can also lead women to put off their next scheduled mammogram. In a recent study of 741,150 screening mammograms from 261,767 women, the women with false positive results (12.3 percent) waited about three years to have their next mammogram, while those with true negative results waited about 13 months.[2] (Screening guidelines depend on family history, but starting at age 40, women are encouraged to start annual mammograms.[3])

To help women avoid false positive results, screening facilities are increasingly relying on 3D™ technology, such as Hologic’s Genius™ exam that looks at a breast layer by layer. This allows radiologists to better see lesions or faint calcifications that may be hidden or obscured by breast tissue, providing them a more accurate reading. The Genius™ exam has been found to improve detection of invasive breast cancer while reducing unnecessary recalls among women of all breast densities, including those with dense breasts.*

2. Mammograms are uncomfortable

Ask a friend if she looks forward to her annual mammogram and you’ll likely get a resounding “no.”

Some women skip a yearly screening for fear of the discomfort involved, which includes the pressure itself as well as the amount of time under compression. In fact, in a recent survey of 10,000 women, fear of physical discomfort was the number one reason given for avoiding a mammogram by women who had never had one.[4]

“As a woman, I know firsthand that all too often, annual mammograms are considered a necessary evil,” says Tracy Accardi, Global Vice President of Research and Development at Hologic, Inc., a leading global health care and diagnostics company. “We understand the critical role the exam plays in the early detection of breast cancer, but we know how uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful, the exam can be."[5]

That’s changing. One reason: Accardi and the research and development team behind Hologic’s Genius™ 3D Mammography™ exam. A new innovation in mammography, the SmartCurve™ system, uses a curved surface to stabilize the breast and reduce pinching and thus allows for uniform breast compression—making the exam more comfortable. A recent clinical study that compared the SmartCurve system to a traditional flat compression surface found it improved comfort in 93 percent of women who felt moderate to severe discomfort with standard compression.[6]

3. Confusion surrounding breast density

Dense breast tissue can make it difficult for radiologists to see cancer on mammograms, since both dense breast tissue and masses or tumors show up white on a mammogram. In essence, the dense tissue might mask tumors.[7]

Between 40 and 50 percent of women age 40-74 have dense breasts, which can’t be seen or felt by the hand and isn’t related to the sagginess, perkiness or fattiness of a woman’s breast tissue. Instead, it is a measure of how much fibrous or glandular tissue is in the breast.

Because dense breast tissue makes reading a mammogram more difficult, 30 states now require that letters be sent to notify women of their level of breast density after their mammograms. Recently, the Genius™ exam was approved by the FDA as the only mammogram superior to 2D mammography for women with dense breasts.[8] Testing advances like the Genius™ exam arm women with the information they need to feel confident they are receiving the best possible imaging with the least risk of recall due to a false positive.

“The Genius™ exam satisfies all the critical needs for breast cancer screening,” says Pete Valenti, Hologic's Division President, Breast and Skeletal Health Solutions, “from improving invasive cancer detection to significantly reducing recalls, and is designed to provide meaningful improvements in patient satisfaction and reduced costs to health systems.”[9]

*For more information, visit FindMyGenius3D.com.

[1] http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

[2] http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/false-positives-may-lead-to-screening-delays

[3] https://www.cancer.org/healthy/find-cancer-early/cancer-screening-guidelines/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer.html

[4] Kadence International, Ten Thousand Quantitative Findings Research Study (5107), April 2017.

[5] Kadence International, Ten Thousand Quantitative Findings Research Study (5107), April 2017.

[6] Smith, A. Improving Patient Comfort in Mammography. Hologic WP-00119 Rev 001 (2017).

[7] https://www.acscan.org/policy-resources/acs-can-supports-breast-density-and-mammography-reporting-act

[8] U.S. Food & Drug Administration Premarket Approval (PMA). FDA.gov https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfpma/pma.cfm?id=P080003S005 accessed June 5, 2017.

[9] http://investors.hologic.com/2017-06-07-FDA-Approves-Hologics-Genius-TM-3D-Mammography-TM-Exam-as-the-Only-Mammogram-Superior-for-Women-with-Dense-Breasts