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The Truth About Mammography

January Lopez, M.D., director of breast imaging at Hoag Breast Center, wants to set the record straight: “Mammograms save lives,” she said. “Schedule your annual mammogram. It is the most important screening tool you have against breast cancer.”

Dr. Lopez is a board-certified, fellowship trained breast radiologist, and a champion for the type of preventive medicine that patients find at Hoag Women’s Health Institute in Irvine.

Additional advice for women seeking to take control of their health:

  • 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.
  • Know your risk factors: From age to family history to genetic mutations, your risk factors for breast cancer matter. “Just being a woman poses a significant risk for developing breast cancer. 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.

Hoag Women’s Health Institute offers high-quality imaging and fellowship-trained breast radiologists. Hoag was the first in California to offer digital tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, and Hoag’s team is among the most skilled in the nation in performing and interpreting the images from these advanced tools.

This excellence makes a difference. 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%.”

Dr. Lopez reiterates that the key to early detection is mammography.

“Mammograms can reveal abnormalities that physical exams don’t always catch,” she said. “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.”

To schedule your mammogram, please call 949-764-5573 or schedule online at