O’Connor joins fight against breast cancer with first mammogram appointment
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Early detection saves lives. Mammograms, or image screening of the breast, can detect breast cancer up to two years before any symptoms are present - which significantly decreases a patient’s chance of dying from the disease.
Dr. Elizabeth O’Connor, plastic surgeon with Plastic Surgery & Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic received her first mammogram this year.
“I turned 40 recently, and that gave me the opportunity for early breast cancer screening with mammography based on American Cancer Society guidelines,” says O’Connor. “I really wanted to make sure that I was taking care of myself and my body and signed up for my mammogram as soon as I could.”
For women of average risk, the American Cancer Society recommends women ages 40 to 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
Average risk is defined as someone who does not have a personal history or a family history of breast cancer and does not have a known genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, women who have regular mammograms are more likely to find breast cancer early, are less likely to need aggressive treatment, and are more likely to be cured.
“Mammograms do save lives,” says Dr. Lynn Mastey, radiologist with BayCare Clinic Radiology. “It’s one of the few screening imaging studies out there that actually has been scientifically proven to make an impact on survival and save lives.”
Mastey specializes in breast imaging at BayCare Clinic.
According to Mastey, a mammogram uses low dose x-rays to produce a high-quality image of the breast tissue. During the exam, compression is used to take several x-ray images of the breast from a variety of angles.
It’s that compression that often scares people and sometimes even deters women from coming in, Mastey says.
“The technology continues to improve and back in the day the breast was in compression for much longer than it is now,” says Mastey. “Now it’s really just a split second, just long enough for us to get a quality image… It shouldn’t be painful, and the discomfort should be minimal.”
Still, it’s perfectly natural to feel nervous. Dr. O’Connor was nervous too.
“Although I do have an idea of what goes on in a mammogram, this was the first time I actually had a mammogram myself and so, just like everyone else I was a little bit nervous.”
The entire appointment from check-in to completion took approximately 30 minutes, O’Connor says.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories about how unpleasant the actual mammogram can be, and I have to say I was really surprised about how easy it really was,” says O’Connor. “It was not uncomfortable or painful in any way.”
Once the images are obtained, they are digitally sent to a radiologist who will review the images for abnormalities.
Your first mammogram really serves as your baseline images.
“What we’re really looking for are subtle changes in the breast tissue that might alert us of an abnormality,” Mastey says. “These include mass lesions, lumps, irregular densities, or calcium deposits. Our hope is to catch all breast cancers as early as possible. The smaller and the earlier we can find them the more that translates to better treatment outcomes and a better chance of survival.”
For the complete story on Dr. O’Connor’s first mammogram, check out this video where we chronicled her appointment at the Aurora BayCare Medical Center Breast Imaging Center from start to finish.
For more information about BayCare Clinic Radiology or to request an appointment call 920-288-4848 or do so online.