ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which serves as a good reminder to make that annual mammogram a priority.
According to the American Cancer Society, there’s a 1 in 8 chance, women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer that is why it is important for women not to skip those annual check-ups.
Radiologist, Dr. Kathleen Sitarik with Northwest Breast Imaging Center at Willow Creek tells us during the pandemic some women are delaying their exams. Instead of women coming in when they first feel or see something abnormal, they are coming in 12 to 14 months later.
Dr. Sitarik says they are diagnosing more cancers at later and more aggressive stages during the health crisis.
She says annual mammograms should start at 40 years old but in some cases, you should start much sooner. Dr. Sitarik says your chances of developing breast cancer are higher if you have a first-degree relative like your mom, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Then, your annual mammogram should start 10 years earlier than the age they are diagnosed.
However, she says the leading risk factor of getting breast cancer is just being a woman and the risks increases with age.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is that people think that if I don’t have a family member with breast cancer then I don’t need to be concerned about it and I’m not at risk. Well, that could not be more wrong. While your risk two folds increases with a first-degree relative, 85% of patients that are newly diagnosed never had a relative with breast cancer,” said Sitarik.
It’s also important for all women to do monthly self-breast exams. You want to know your body and be able to recognize what’s not normal. The best place to check yourself is in the shower. You want to feel for lumps, bumps, areas of thickening and take note of any changes to your breast during your examination.
Moreover, the CDC does recommend to COVID-19 vaccine for those with underlying health conditions including cancer. So, another thing to keep in mind when scheduling your exam is when you’ve gotten the COVID-19 shot.
“It’s ideal to wait 4-6 weeks after your COVID-19 vaccination to get your screening mammogram. Now, where that is different is if you have a diagnostic mammogram. If you have a problem, don’t put that off because you’ve had a vaccine. It does not matter and we want to take care of you. Don’t put that off if you have a problem,” said Dr. Sitarik.
The CDC says that’s because people can get some swelling in their lymph nodes, in the underarm where they got the shot. Adding the swelling is a normal reaction to your body building protection against COVID-19. However, you don’t want that swelling to cause a false reading on your mammogram.
Overall, early detection is key to beating breast cancer and it’s important not to miss those mammograms even during the pandemic.
If you have any concerns or questions speak to your doctor about it.