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Five More Reasons to get a Mammogram

October 31, 2013

In case you missed the memo, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Which means that everywhere you turn, pink ads with even pinker lettering are reminding you to get a mammogram because, well “early detection gives you the best shot for survival blah, blah, blah…” And they’re right—you’re just weary of being reminded.  But here are five more reasons to stop dawdling and get screened already.

1. Peace of mind

It was Amelia Earhart who said, “Anticipation, I suppose sometimes exceeds realization.”

Yes, mammograms are a tad uncomfortable. Unfortunately, they are a necessary inconvenience. So you have two options: 20 minutes of discomfort, or you can listen to that nagging voice in your head (you know, the one that can’t remember if you turned off the oven before leaving the house) worry that something might not be quite right. So put that voice to rest. Cross “getting a mammogram” off your to-do list and make an appointment. One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, which also means that seven in eight women will not. Either way, knowing is better than worrying.

2. Better quality of life

Let’s state the obvious here: one of the advantages of early detection is that you can catch breast cancer in an early stage. Breast cancer caught in an early stage tends to require less invasive treatment. Caught early enough, patients may not need chemotherapy or radiation; they may not even need a mastectomy (or the optional resulting reconstructive surgery). Treatment is determined on a case-by-case basis, but doctors agree that less invasive treatment generally means a higher quality of life—less discomfort, less medication, less of an interruption to your day to day—while you’re being treated.

3. Consistency is key

Ignorance may be bliss—yet regret is anything but. Like your annual physical, getting a mammogram is one of those get-it-over-with-and-don’t-think-about-it-for-a-year things. If you want to be proactive about your breast health, they really are an annually necessary inconvenience. Skip a year, and you might miss catching something before it gets serious.

4. You don’t have time NOT to get one

I know; I know…you’re just so busy. You’re working all the time. Families have a habit of sucking up your attention. And, to be quite honest, there are about a million better ways to spend an afternoon off than going topless and getting an x-ray from a stranger.

In the grand scheme of things, though, mammograms really don’t take up that much of your time. With an experienced physician, it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes out of your day. Factor in travel time and the inevitable waiting room wait and you can be in, out and back to your life in about an hour. That’s 1/24 of your day and, to really put things in perspective, 1/8760 out of your entire year. Feel free to devote the remaining 8759 hours to whatever you want, but be sure take one each year to focus on your breast health.

5. You’ll know what normal looks like

Like we’ve already discussed, there’s a good chance your mammogram results will come back clear. So, the odds are leaning toward this whole mammogram thing being just a waste of stress and time, right? WRONG! It’s great that your results came back negative for anything abnormal—especially since your doctor now knows what a healthy scan of your breasts should look like.

And since you’re going to be so on top of getting your annual screening in the future, your doctor can now use these results as a basis for comparison.  From year to year, he can assess your most recent studies against these original ones and determine if something abnormal starts developing. The key word there being starts—when your doctor knows what your “normal” looks like, it’s easier to tell when there’s something that’s not supposed to be there.