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The Importance of Scheduling Your Annual Mammogram

With so many conflicting messages about mammograms, Dr. Lopez has some clear messaging about the importance of scheduling your annual mammogram. Dr. Lopez is a board certified, fellowship trained breast radiologist and the medical director of Breast Imaging at Hoag.

“Mammograms save lives,” she said. “Schedule your annual mammogram. It is the most important screening tool you have against breast cancer.”

Start at 40: “For women of any risk stratification, starting annual mammograms at the age of 40 has been proven to save the most lives,” said Dr. Lopez.

Get screened annually: Though there is consensus about when to start screening, you might hear conflicting messages about how often to be screened. “Getting screened annually reduces your risk of dying from breast cancer the most,” Dr. Lopez said. “It is important for every woman to work with her health care provider and stay on top of her mammography schedule.” Getting screened every two years is better than no screening, but by skipping a year between screenings, you increase your risk of missing the most aggressive, fastest growing cancers until it is too late.

Seek early detection: More than 60,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed annually with breast cancer between the ages of 40-49. In Orange County, five women every day are diagnosed. Earlier screening means more lives saved. “The earlier a woman is diagnosed, the better her prognosis,” Dr. Lopez said. “In fact, the American Cancer Society states that when breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the five-year relative survival rate is 99%.”

It bears repeating: How to detect cancer early? You guessed it. “Mammography is the gold standard of breast cancer screening,” Dr. Lopez said. “Mammograms can reveal abnormalities that physical exams don’t always catch.”

Know your risk factors: From age to family history to genetic mutations, your risk factors risk factors for breast cancer matter. “Just being a woman poses a significant risk for developing breast cancer. Surprisingly, 75% of the women I diagnose have no significant breast cancer risk factors. However, women with additional risk factors for breast cancer should be clear about their estimated breast cancer risk as they may need augmented screening or prevention measures beyond just annual mammograms,” said Dr. Lopez. “It is important for women to seek out high quality imaging and fellowship-trained breast radiologists. Hoag was the first in California to offer digital tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, and our team is among the most skilled in the nation in performing and interpreting the images from these advanced tools.”

Genetics only play a partial role: “Around 75% of breast cancers are diagnosed in patients who are not high-risk. This tells us that screening all women is important, and the earlier a woman’s cancer is diagnosed the better the outcome,” added Dr. Lopez. Once again, how can you catch those cancers at their earliest stages? That’s right: annual mammograms beginning at age 40.

Focus on You, Schedule Today!

If you or someone you know is due for a mammogram, Hoag offers convenient scheduling options:

Schedule your mammogram online or call 949-764-5573.