Approximately one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Early detection remains the primary method of survival. The earlier the cancer is detected and treated, the greater the chance of survival.
"We offer mammogram screenings at Cox Monett Hospital Monday through Friday," said Mary George, RT (R), (M), (CT). We have three techs on staff who perform mammograms. It's about a 30-minute process and it can save lives."
The machine used to conduct the screening, the General Electric Seno Essential, compresses the tissue, which is scanned and x-rayed. The film is sent to the breast clinic in Springfield, where a radiologist reads it and sends the report back to the patient's primary physician.
"These screenings are for basic, annual exams," George said. "If a patient has already experienced problems or suspects a lump, they have to go to their primary physician and get a referral for a diagnostic screening, which is not what we do here at Cox-Monett."
The process is a little uncomfortable, according to George.
"But what's the price of a little pain if it saves your life, or your mother or sister's life?" she asked. "It's nothing."
Women over the age of 40 are recommended to have an annual mammogram, along with a clinical breast exam, conducted by a health care professional every year. These exams are in addition to the monthly self-exams that everyone, from age 20 and older, should be performing.
Women who have a history of breast cancer in the family should set up a breast exam schedule with their primary care physician.
"Women need to feel for lumps and look for unusual discharge," George said. "If those are found, they should schedule a visit with their doctor immediately."
Typical signs of breast cancer include a lump or thickening, especially a lump that does not go away and doesn't seem to change in the way it feels.
"Often, the lump can be a cyst or other condition, and not cancer at all," George said.
Other signs to look for include swelling, puckering, redness or soreness of the skin.
If a doctor suspects cancer, a biopsy will be ordered and the tissue examined. If the test is positive, the patient and her doctor can discuss treatment options, cancer specialists, friends and family members.
"A lot of people are scared to get their first mammogram," George said. "We try to make it as comfortable as possible so they will come back again."
Occasionally, people will return to the hospital and tell George what their tests have revealed.
"Most of the time, if they are referred to another doctor, I don't see them again," she said.
Lab staff at Cox Monett can schedule mammogram appointments during regular business hours, Monday through Friday.
"We generally get busy around October and November," George said. "The increased numbers usually coincide with the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign."
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 354-1137. At the time of the appointment, patients need to provide insurance or method of payment.