According to retired women’s healthcare advocate, author, and pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm, a mammogram remains a woman’s first and best line of defense against breast cancer. Keep reading for a quick Q&A session about this often misunderstood process.
Q: What is a mammogram?
Marla Ahlgrimm: A mammogram is a test that doctors use to find breast cancer. Although it cannot treat the condition if found, it is the best way for a woman to find out if she has breast cancer. And the sooner the cancer is detected, the more effectively it may be treated.
Q: Because mammograms utilize radiation, they cause cancer. Is that correct?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Absolutely not. Although radiation is used, the amount is similar to getting a routine x-ray. Because of technology, mammography radiation has continually decreased over the last 20 years. Despite using less radiation, the accuracy of these important tests have increased exponentially. Most healthcare providers believe that the very minute risk of radiation a woman is exposed to because of a mammogram is extremely low compared to not knowing her cancer status.
Q: Are mammograms accurate?
Q: How painful is the process?
Marla Ahlgrimm: A mammogram involves pressing the breasts between two metal plates. Many women describe this as discomfort that subsides a few moments after the images are taken. It is important to know that women experience pain at different thresholds, so what might be uncomfortable for one may be considered painful for another.