Health Break | Published October 14, 2009

No Excuses for Skipping Your Mammogram

You cannot surprise me. The fact is I have heard it all before. Every excuse women over 40 have for not getting an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer. Here are some of the most common reasons women site for skipping this important screening. “I am too busy.”Many women are so busy with work and care-giving for their families that they don’t take time to pursue their own health needs. An annual physical, with a clinical breast exam is an important time to schedule cancer and other disease screenings. This is also the time to discuss your family history, as some women younger than 40 should begin screening mammography.“I heard that mammograms are painful.”This is a common misconception. While many women describe the experience as uncomfortable, less than 10% say they find it painful. The compression time lasts only about 5-7 seconds. Ari Geselowitz, MD, Medical Director of the Breast Care Center at Mount Nittany offers the following advice for decreasing discomfort during a mammogram. “Our technologists are very sensitive to our patients. If you're worried about having pain from the mammogram, please tell your technologist and they will only apply as much compression as they need for the picture. You may wish to take some acetaminophen or ibuprofen before the exam. Scheduling your mammogram at the time just after your menstrual cycle may also reduce discomfort.”“I don’t want to know if I have breast cancer.”Mammograms can often show a lump long before you would be able to feel it.This allows cancer to be identified at the earliest possible stage, increasing the chances of successful treatment. Sadly, some people still believe that cancer equals a death sentence. In fact far more women are long-term survivors than those that are lost to the multiple tumor types of breast cancer. “I don’t have the money to pay for a mammogram.”We are so fortunate in Centre County to have multiple programs to pay for screening and diagnostic mammograms, ensuring that virtually all women without insurance, or with limited insurance will be covered. The patient navigator at Mount Nittany Medical Center is a terrific resource to get women connected with these programs. Kristin Sides can be reached at 234-6175 or honor of October being breast cancer awareness month, Mount Nittany Medical Center has partnered for the second year with the American Cancer Society, Centre Volunteers in Medicine, Centre/Huntingdon Tapestry of Health, the Centre County Library, and the Centre County Breast Cancer Coalition to increase women’s knowledge about breast health. Funded by a community partnership grant provided by the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, we have a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together in a fun environment to learn about breast health, the benefits of digital mammography, and all the resources available to fund mammograms for women who do not have insurance or other means to pay. On Saturday, October 17, 12 pm – 3 pm, Free Pink Bingo will be held at Lambert Hall in Bellefonte. Participants will be treated to 6 games of free Pink Bingo, lunch and great prizes, all the while learning about what they can do to reduce their own risk of breast cancer. To register for a door prize, you may call Cheryl DePaolis at 359-8696 or by October 15. Walk-ins are welcome and anyone over the age of 18 will be able to play. Now, there can be no excuses! Aileen S. Galley, ACSW, LSW, is the Administrative Director of the Cancer Program at Mount Nittany Medical Center.