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Go Ask Mom

Duke Medicine: Mammogram myth busters

Posted October 22, 2012

The last thing that should prevent you from having a mammogram is misinformation. Yet many myths persist about mammograms, including who needs them, when to get one, and how effective they are.

Here, Jay Baker, M.D., Division Chief of Breast Imaging at Duke University Medical Center, busts the myths that surround mammograms. Read these facts, then share them with your friends and family to make sure they have the most accurate information.

Myth: Mammograms are 100 percent accurate all of the time
Fact: About 30 percent of breast cancers are missed by screening mammograms.

The main cause of false results is high breast density. Breasts contain both dense tissue and fatty issue. False negative results, which mean there is actually a cancer present, occur more often among younger women than older women because breasts tend to lose density with age. Specialists recommend having a clinical breast exam to accompany mammograms to detect cancers that may have been missed from the screening.

Digital mammography may increase the accuracy of your mammogram exam, especially for those women with dense breast tissue. Likewise, having your images read by fellowship-trained radiologists improves the accuracy of your mammogram results. All breast radiologists at Duke have completed this year-long fellowship training.

Myth: Mammograms are only for women aged 40 and older
Fact: Women who have a family history of breast cancer should talk with their doctor and consider having a mammogram 10 years before their first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) developed breast cancer. Women with at least a 20 percent lifetime risk by certain factors may also consider screening MRI. Specialty clinics, like the Duke Hereditary Cancer Clinic, can also offer assessments and education for cancer patients or people with a family history of cancer or other risk factors.

Do mammograms work if you have a breast implant? Are mammograms expensive? Is a screening mammogram the same as a diagnostic mammogram? Visit DukeHealth.org to see other mammography myths busted.

Are you getting a mammogram soon? Here is what you can expect when you visit the Duke Cancer Center Mammography and Breast Imaging Suite:

Duke Medicine, Go Ask Mom's sponsor, offers health information and tips every Tuesday.

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