Doctors stress importance of annual breast cancer screenings

Digital mammography can help with early detection

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In this struggling economy, many women are delaying some healthcare expenditures, and that can be hazardous to their health. Even in times of economic challenge, it is important for women not to forgo their breast cancer screenings, according to Judith Schreiman, M.D., of the Betty Puskar Breast Care Center at West Virginia University.

January marked the first significant decrease in breast cancer screenings at the Breast Care Center in the past couple of years, Dr. Schreiman says.

Typically, the number of people who come in for screenings increases about 15 percent every year, but since 2007 and 2008, those numbers have decreased.

Delaying routine screening could result in severe health consequences.

“Early detection is clearly the key to survival for breast cancer,” Schreiman says.  “Resources exist to help cover the expenses for individuals who can not afford to pay for them.”

She says Breast Care Center staff members can help women look into those possibilities.

A factor that could encourage women to keep their annual screening appointments is the advancement in digital technology for mammograms. Digital mammography, available to WVU, is not only faster for the client – no more waiting for film to process – but also aids the doctor reading the image.

“The advantages of looking at something in a digital environment are that you can manipulate images,” Schreiman says. “You can change window levels and scroll through things and look at things in a different way than you can when you have a perfectly flat image.”

Judith Schreiman, MD

Digital mammography can improve cancer detection for many women, she says. Women who have dense breast tissue, for instance, will benefit from having a digital mammogram as opposed to a film-screen mammogram.

Women who are going through menopause can also benefit.

No matter what technology is used, mammography is still the best method for breast cancer detection, she says.

Women should begin having an annual mammogram at age 40. Those who have a history of breast cancer in their families should start screening earlier.

For information on services at the WVU Betty Puskar Breast Care Center call 304-293-8012 or visit http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/bpbcc/.






For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
EL: 03-12-09

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