Submitted by Tammy Moore, MSN, ARNP, DNP for Summit Pacific Medical Center
For many, the familiar pink ribbon that adorns posters and advertisements this time of the year is nothing but a gentle reminder of the presence of breast cancer’s presence in our community. However, for so many families in Grays Harbor County and Washington State, the pink ribbon represents the difficult and often life-changing journey that has taken place after a member of their family became informed that they have a breast mass.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this annual campaign looks to increase public awareness of a cancer that affects 170 women per 100,000 residents in Washington State. Grays Harbor County has seen a small decline in the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer over the last five years and early detection remains a key contributor to overall survival of this devastating disease.
Mammograms remain the primary imaging test to look for breast cancer in women who do not have symptoms as well as those who have noticed a mass or skin, nipple or other changes to the breast. Using low dose x-rays, mammograms allow radiologists to see the presence of abnormal breast tissue, not typically visible to the naked eye. Taking roughly 20 minutes from start-to-finish, a mammogram is typically reviewed by a radiologist before you leave your appointment so that any additional pictures can be done at the same time, if needed. If an abnormality is found on your mammogram, additional tests may be done. Diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and biopsies are commonly done with abnormal screening mammogram findings. These tests determine if there is presence of cancer that would require further treatment.
Summit Pacific Medical Center (SPMC) has performed more than 800 screening mammograms this year in our state-of-the art diagnostic imaging center. Recommendations for screening can vary. Generally, mammograms are recommended every two years in women ages 50 to 74 without a history of breast abnormalities. For women under the age of 50, SPMC recommends that that you discuss your individual risk factors and how often you should be screened with your primary care provider. While most insurance plans cover mammography screening, there are programs that can assist with a percentage or the total cost of the screening.
While October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, our vigilance for this cancer continues year-round. Ask a female relative over the age of 40 if they have had this important preventative test and talk to your clinician about your own risk factors and when you should be screened.
SPMC accepts diagnostic imaging orders from any provider and sends the results directly to your primary care provider. For more information about SPMC’s Diagnostic Imaging Department, please visit SP-MC.org or call 260-346-2222.