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Just a Squeeze Please!
Maria Marasco

Over the past few months, two of my closest friends were diagnosed with abnormal mammograms. Because I work at the first digital mammography center in Massachusetts and know more than the average lay person about breast cancer, I suppose I received the call first among our circle of friends.

“The doctor said I needed another mammogram, and maybe an ultrasound and maybe a biopsy. What do you think?” she said with deep concern.

      I responded, “I think you should do what the doctor tells you. Don’t worry, but don’t wait.”

One just turning 40 and the other a few years past, one friend had found a lump and the other had gone for her annual mammogram.  These women understood the importance of early detection in the fight against breast cancer.  At the Digital Mammography Center where I work, we’ve started using the phrase, “Just A Squeeze, PleaseŠ”. 

No, it isn’t the Charmin ad. It’s a way to make light of the fact that the test itself requires the breast tissue to be flattened.  It’s a way to remind women about the importance of early detection.

Early detection means that every woman should get a mammogram every one to two years beginning at age 40 and thereafter, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the federal government.  The NCI also recommends that women with a history of breast cancer (mother, sister or daughter, for example) or other risk factors get a mammogram sooner as recommended by their physicians.  A mammogram is so important, because if a woman should have breast cancer and it is detected before it spreads to other parts of the body, her 5-year survival rate will jump to about 97%. The message is that women can survive breast cancer.  But first they need to know the status of their health; they need a mammogram.

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that can pick up the smallest variations in breast tissue that sometimes cannot be felt with a touch. A mammogram will reveal shadows, masses, and patterns that a licensed radiologist, trained in mammography, evaluates. Based upon size, shape, and other features, the radiologist will distinguish between normal signs of aging and other images that require additional testing before it can be determined if it is or is not cancer.

If after a screening mammogram (given when a woman has no symptoms), you are called back for more mammography, don’t panic.  Don’t hesitate. You are likely being called back for one of two reasons.   Sometimes with conventional film technology, the image does not come out clearly just because of they way the film is developed.  If that is the case, you are returning for another screening mammogram.  And while call-backs are greatly reduced with digital technology, for other reasons call-backs happen, too.  So don’t be alarmed or annoyed.  Other times, however, you may be called back for additional views or a diagnostic mammogram.

A diagnostic mammogram is given when the screening mammogram reveals something suspicious, or it is given when a woman has symptoms, such as a breast lump or pain, for example.  In the case of additional views, the radiologist will give instructions to the mammography technologist to take more views of a particular area or areas.  If further diagnostic tests are warranted, such as a breast ultrasound or a biopsy, don’t panic, but don’t hesitate. While a mammogram can detect much, there are some conditions in which the radiologist will recommend further types of testing which as a whole  will provide a woman with the status of her health.  If you are informed that these types of tests are needed, listen to your doctor.

You don’t need a doctor’s order for an annual screening mammogram in Massachusetts, but you will need an order for a diagnostic mammogram.  While most insurances cover annual mammography, it is always best to check with your insurance company to make sure the facility participates.  Medicaid and Medicare (with your secondary insurance) covers annual screening, generally.  For women without insurance, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts funds a large number of mammograms through the Women’s Health Network. There are guidelines to participate in this program, and you can call to see if you are eligible by calling

1-877-414-4447 (TTY 617-624-5992).

For the average population of women, the older we get, the greater our chances for developing breast cancer.  Whatever your age, from age 40 to 90 years young, “Just A Squeeze, PleaseŠ ” with a mammogram will let you know the status of your health and may very well save your life.  For further information, consult your doctor, or visit the National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov or the American Cancer Society www.cancer.org. Maria Marasco is the Director of Marketing and Development for Medical Diagnostic Healthcare, a non-profit corporation dedicated to saving and improving women’s lives through digital mammography and related services. Maria also serves as the Governor’s appointee on the MA Commission on the Status of Women.  The information contained herein is not intended for medical purposes, but for general information only. 

Sources:  The National Cancer Institute


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