Taking Breast Cancer Awareness to Heart

By Onalisa Winblad, MD

Onalissa Winblad, MDOctober is a special month. It's a time when we celebrate breast cancer survivors, support all the women fighting breast cancer and remember those who have lost their battle.

October is also a month to raise awareness about breast cancer prevention and detection. It's safe to say that all of us will know someone affected by breast cancer in our lifetime. That's why it's important to know the facts and spread the word about breast health.

Breast cancer statistics

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women (apart from skin cancer).

  • It is estimated that 300,000 new cases of breast cancer in the United States will be diagnosed in 2017.

  • One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

  • One in 6 of these breast cancers will occur in women in their 40s.

Reducing your risk of breast cancer

There is evidence that breastfeeding, maintaining a healthy body weight, moderate exercise, limited alcohol consumption and minimizing hormone replacement therapy can reduce your risk of breast cancer. However, most women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have substantial risk factors or a strong family history of breast cancer. The best defense is to find breast cancer early, when it is small and more easily cured.

7 ways to get a better mammogram

Screening works.

Annual mammogram screenings save thousands of lives every year. In fact, they can reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by about 40%.

I recommend all women begin screening mammograms at age 40, and continue to get screened every year. Women at high risk for breast cancer may begin earlier.

Some women choose to begin screening mammograms every other year starting at age 50. However, this results in about 6,500 more lives lost to breast cancer every year in the United States.

Ultimately, it is up to you to arm yourself with the facts and decide what screening regimen is right for you.

3D mammograms are the best choice.

I always recommend 3D mammograms to my patients. This new technology has improved the traditional 2D mammogram because it enables radiologists, like me, to find more cancers. It also makes it less likely that you will have to return for additional images.

At The University of Kansas Health System, we have advanced technology that allows us to obtain a 3D mammogram without any additional radiation to the patient. Many insurance companies, including Medicare, offer full coverage for 3D mammograms. Check with your insurance company to find out if you are covered.

Consider additional screening if you have dense breast tissue.

Dense breast tissue is very common, affecting about 40-50% of screening-age women. Women with dense breast tissue have an increased risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer is also more difficult to detect on a mammogram in a woman with high breast density. For this reason, additional screenings are often recommended.

The University of Kansas Health System is one of the only facilities in the region that offers dense breast screening.

Take control of your breast health

When it comes to breast health, knowledge is power. By getting your annual mammogram every year, you may very well save your own life.

We offer comprehensive breast imaging. To schedule a screening mammogram, call 913-588-1227 or request an appointment online.