I'm a little over 40, and I admit -- I never had a mammogram -- that is, until two weeks ago. Why did I put it off? Well, like many women, I was a little scared. I was a medical reporter for many years and even won some awards for my medical reporting. I knew about the benefits of mammograms, but I still procrastinated.
One of my aunts is a breast cancer survivor -- and she's very blessed -- because she didn't have her first mammogram until she was in her 70s.
I didn't want to wait that long, so I finally decided to take my health into my own hands.
The staff at CCHC Imaging Center in New Bern guided me through the process, and I have to say it wasn't painful at all.
The National Cancer Institute recommends women over 40 have screening mammograms every one to two years. A mammogram is an xray picture of the breast.
Doctors say the bottom line is: mammograms help save lives. I talked to Dr. Catherine Everett, a radiologist at CCHC.
"Annual screening at age 40 picks up early breast cancers. Women between the ages of 40 and 50 have low rates of breast cancer, but they still get breast cancer and they tend to be aggressive breast cancers," Dr. Everett said. "We'd like to pick those up early. We'd like to not wait until they're big and more difficult to treat."
Doctors say women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer -- because of a family history of the disease or because they carry a known gene mutation -- may need to have mammograms before age 40.
The type of mammogram I had utilizes 3D imaging...it's called breast tomosynthesis. Dr. Everett says it can pinpoint cancer in greater detail.
"It's kind of like a mountain that has no trees on it; it's easy to find the one tree," she said. "But if it's a tree-covered mountain, in order to pick out the one dead tree, I need to slice it. Breast tomosynthesis actually cuts that into multiple slices, and we can look at individual slices of the breast instead of the whole breast in one picture."
I also asked Dr. Everett about the oldest woman to receive a mammogram at the facility.
"We had a lady not too long ago who was 93 and got her screening mammogram," Dr. Everett said. "That may be a little late, but normally no. If you're a healthy person who wants to take care of herself, get a mammogram."
I got my results within a few days, and I'm happy to say there were no signs of cancer! I'm glad I finally got a mammogram, and I hope that my story will inspire others to get tested.