St. Rita’s health focus: Be educated on breast health


By Alicia Swallow - Guest Columnist



“You have breast cancer,” are four words that changed my life forever. I was only 27 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am reminded everyday by the scars and medications that I take for my cancer. Those four words are why it is important to get yearly mammograms and do monthly breast exams.

As a mammography technologist, I see daily of how uneducated we are about our breast health. What better way to be educated than by your technologist when you get a mammogram or getting a physical by your physician.

Do you know how to do monthly self- breast exams? Or do monthly self-breast exams?

Do you get annual mammograms?

Do you know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

These are simple questions. If you said no to any of these, then listen up:

I frequently am told by patients that they don’t do monthly self-breast exams or that they do not know what to feel for. These moments are wonderful to educate patients. When doing a self-breast exam, you should do the exam monthly and preferably the same time of each month. When doing the self-breast exam, it should be done in the shower and lying down. Use the pads of your fingers and use a circular motion to feel for any lumps. Also, stand in front a mirror and look for any changes in your breast like dimpling or swelling. If you feel any lumps or notice changes in your breast, call and make an appointment with your physician.

Mammograms are a screening tool to detect early breast cancers. There are two types of mammograms available: 2D and 3D. 2D mammograms is a single image with overlapping tissue. 3D mammograms are when an X-ray arm sweeps over the breast taking multiple images in seconds. Benefits of getting a 3D mammogram over 2D mammograms has fewer call backs and improves detection of invasive breast cancers by up to 40 percent compared to 2D mammograms.

The American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging recommends annual screening mammograms starting at age 40. Women over 50 getting mammogram every other year could miss up to 30 percent of cancers. Diagnosing early is when it is most treatable, which is why it is important to get tested yearly.

The American College of Radiology has a website called Mammogramssavelives.org. Did you know 1 in 6 women between the ages 40-49 will get breast cancer? Did you know that 75 percent of breast cancers have no family history or are not at high-risk patients? These statistics prove why getting your baseline mammogram at age 40 is important.

For women who have concerns about cost, no worries, we will take great care of you. Here at Mercy Health St. Rita’s Women’s Wellness, we will help with your needs through our Sherry Halker fund or Ohio Department of Health Breast and Cervical Cancer Project.

We don’t want to leave the men out so here is your important statistic: About 1 in 1,000 men will get breast cancer in your lifetime. Yes, men can get breast cancer, too. Risks are greater as you get older, you carry a genetic mutation or very strong family history, Klinefelter syndrome or have high levels of estrogen. Just like women, if you notice any lumps, swelling or changes to your breast/chest area make an appointment to see your physician.

Getting a mammogram can cause anxiety in patients. Please let your technologist know how you feel so she can help you through the process during your mammogram. Your team of health professionals are happy to see you walk through the doors and take charge of your health and well-being.

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By Alicia Swallow

Guest Columnist

Mammography Technician Alicia Swallow

Mammography Technician Alicia Swallow

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