Culture + wellness: Feel-good October

As part of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Pacific Medical Centers is spreading knowledge about the most common cancer in American women—and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. One in eight women is impacted in her lifetime, and treatment is most successful when breast cancer is detected early. Two healthcare providers offer insight into their recommendations and screening advice. (Pacific Medical Centers offers a full suite of diagnostic imaging services.)

Dr. Christopher Smith, MD, FACP explains that women at high risk – because of family history, a breast condition or another medical reason – may need to begin screening earlier and/or more often. Dr. Smith encourages everyone to “talk to your medical provider to be sure about when to start screening.” He also shared that PacMed follows the American Cancer Society guidelines for breast cancer screening.

Dr. Smith’s (Medical Director of Quality and Primary Care Physician) insights for women at average risk for breast cancer:

  • Women with an average risk of breast cancer – most women fall under this category – should begin yearly mammograms at age 45.
  • Women should be able to start the screening as early as age 40, if they choose.
  • At age 55, women should have mammograms every other year – though women who want to keep having yearly mammograms should be able to do so.
  • Regular mammograms should continue for as long as a woman is in good health.
  • Talk to your doctor about the best screening program for you.

Additionally, Dr. Gurpreet Dhillon, MD shares that the goal of digital mammography is early detection, which reduces deaths, extends life expectancy and improves quality of life. “Screening mammograms have reduced the mortality rate from breast cancer by one third while also enabling less surgery, fewer mastectomies and less frequent or aggressive chemotherapy,” Dr. Dhillon said.

Dr. Dhillon’s (Radiology Physician) insights on 2D vs 3D mammography:

  • 3D mammography acquires multiple images of the breast at different angles and allows radiologists to see around overlapping structures.
  • When women have mammograms and an abnormal finding is detected, they will be called back for additional imaging. Because 3D imaging eliminates most summation artifacts—or overlapping breast tissue that can resemble cancer—that can often show up on 2D imaging, this results in fewer women being called back.
  • Additionally, fewer patients will experience short-term anxiety waiting for their second test results.
  • 3D mammography lowers recall rate and has higher cancer detection rates over 2D mammography.
  • 3D mammography offers a 41 percent increase in detection of invasive cancer and a 49 percent increase in positive predictive value.