The Benefits of Regular Mammograms
Anchor: Welcome back to We Are Austin from Home. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to learn more about early screening and mammograms. Dr. Arthy Saravanan from ARA Diagnostic Imaging is joining me this morning to share some important information about women’s health. It’s nice to see you, doctor.
Dr:: Thank you. Nice being here.
Anchor: Have you been seeing women put off their mammograms because of COVID-19?
Dr:: Well, yes. At the very beginning of the pandemic we were not allowed to perform screening mammography. However, that has changed quickly and now we’re open. We have been for a while for mammograms. However, I do understand that a lot of women have been putting off their screening mammograms especially because of the fear of exposure to COVID.
ARA has put a lot of safety protocols in place to keep our patients safe. For example, one of them is that all patients and employees are required to have masks at all times when they’re in our clinics. We also have enhanced cleaning measures, especially for counters and other high use areas. We make sure to maintain social distancing by ensuring that some of our patients wait in their cars if our waiting rooms are full. And we also screen all the patients who are actually entering our imaging centers. Patients have overall felt pretty safe to come into our clinics to have their mammograms. So, don’t wait to schedule.
Anchor: Yeah. So, what would you say is the most important thing women should know about breast cancer and getting their screening?
Dr:: Well, the thing to keep in mind is that breast cancer is actually at this stage very treatable and at this point it’s actually more treatable than it ever has been before. And the main reason for that is because of early detection by mammography.
Anchor: So, what is the chance that a woman will get breast cancer in her lifetime?
Dr:: 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime but the good news is that more than 98% of these cancers are survivable especially because they’re detected early.
Anchor: Yeah, that’s fantastic news. You talk about being detected early. When should women start getting their yearly screening mammograms?
Dr:: So, according to the American College of Radiology, women should start getting screening mammography at the age of 40 and yearly thereafter. If a woman has high risk factors or has some type of genetic susceptibility, then she should speak with her physician so that she can start screening mammography as early as the age of 30.
Anchor: Mm hm. So, you say every year. Why is that better than every other year?
Dr:: There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about how often we should get mammograms but research has shown that getting mammograms every year actually allows us to detect cancers when they’re much smaller and they’re more treatable in this case. In fact, 76% of these smaller cancers have been detected in women who get their mammograms every year versus only 56% of cancers in women every other year. And these cancers, like I said, are smaller and they’re more treatable when they’re early stage.
Anchor: Yeah. Can you tell me a little bit about the technology that ARA uses for screening mammograms?
Dr:: Definitely. So, ARA has now transitioned fully to 3D mammography and what that means is we’re using tomosynthesis images where the 3D mammogram will get multiple slices through the breast tissue. In this way, we are able to actually detect cancers better and we’re able to decrease the number of times we have to call back a patient for additional imaging. The vast majority of Texas insurance also covers 3D mammograms.
Anchor: Wow, that’s really great to hear. Can you talk more about dense breast tissue and what that is?
Dr:: Of course. So, dense breast tissue just refers to the fact that your breast tissue composition has more glandular and connective tissue in it than it does fatty tissue. It just means that it makes the cancers a little bit difficult to detect on mammogram, and for this reason we might recommend additional or adjunctive screening with ultrasound or MRI.
Anchor: So, how would a woman know if they have dense breast tissue?
Dr:: So, when a radiologist at ARA reviews your mammogram we essentially put your breast tissue density into 1 of 4 categories. The 1st category is called almost entirely fatty where the breast is made up mostly of fatty tissue. The 2nd category is scattered fibroglandular tissue where there’s a little bit of connective tissue and a little bit of glandular tissue as well. The 3rd category is heterogeneously dense tissue where there’s scattered fatty and glandular and connective tissue. And the last category is extremely dense tissue where the majority of the breast is composed of this connective and glandular tissue versus fatty tissue. When you finish your mammogram you will get a report or a letter from ARA. And in that letter, we indicate what breast tissue density you fall into.
Anchor: Yeah. You guys are so knowledgeable about everything and really empower women to feel good about their health. Thank you for all that information. Can you share with us some of the other things you typically see when you do breast imaging?
Dr:: Yes, of course. So, I have a few images here. And so this first image is highlighting–it’s essentially just an ultrasound–just shows you the difference between a cyst and a cancer. So, as you can see, the cyst wall is very circumscribed and the cyst is fluid-filled so it appears very black on ultrasound. Where, on this other side, you can see the cancer has very irregular walls and it’s not as smooth. Also the margins are taller than they are wide and these are features of a cancer. Now, this next image here shows an ultrasound again of a fibroadenoma and a cancer. A fibroadenoma is a pretty common benign lesion that we see in young women. Again, you can see that the margins are very circumscribed and it’s very homogenous in texture throughout versus when we look at the cancer, again it’s very irregular and it’s heterogeneous in texture. Now, this very last image shows a comparison between a mammogram and an MRI. On the mammogram, you can see that this area which looks distorted and it has some speculations is actually corresponding to a biopsy-proven cancer. While on MRI, it really pops out because you can see this abnormal enhancement which correlates with this cancer.
Anchor: Yeah. Thank you so much for explaining all that to us. You know we’re talking about getting screenings, do you find that most women do get screened?
Dr:: Yeah. I mean, I found that a lot of women over the age of 40 have not been getting their screening mammograms. Here in Austin especially. And I understand that we have very busy lives and we tend to put our health on the back burner, but it’s extremely important to have screening mammography and actually take your health in control. Especially knowing that early detection saves lives. You know, we went over some of the risks and benefits and of course it makes sense for that early detection so we can find the cancers early. It’s very easy to schedule. You can schedule online with us at ausrad.com or you can call 512-453-6100 and we’ll be happy to help you.
Anchor: Dr. Saravanan, thank you so much for your time and all of that you do to help women feel empowered for their own health, and navigate some of these things that can be a little scary or daunting if you don’t feel informed. I hope you have a great day.
Dr:: Thank you. It’s totally my pleasure.