The Mammogram Debate


SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Breast cancer is a battle one in eight women will fight in their lifetime. But there’s conflicting information for women on when or even if they should undergo a mammogram.

The conflict comes from differing medical studies which question when you should get a mammogram or how often or even if they’re worth the money. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, who better to clear up some of the confusion than a diagnostic radiologist and a breast cancer survivor from Dallas, Luzerne County.

“I’m actually feeling really well. Starting to feel definitely back to normal.” It’s been a long year back to normal for 44-year-old breast cancer survivor Memory Hurst. Her stunning diagnosis came in late 2017 after finding a small lump in her left breast. “Once the biopsy was positive on the left side then I was sent for an MRI by Dr. Farrell and that’s when they discovered that I also had a spot on my right side as well,” said the Dallas woman.

By comparing previous mammograms Memory began getting when she was 40, doctors could pinpoint her breast cancer. “Women who are at average risk, we believe, The American College of Radiology and The Society of Breast Imaging, that 40 is the age to start screening with mammography,” said Geisinger Associate Radiologist John Farrell, MD. 

For a disease which 266,000 American women will be diagnosed with this year, Dr. Farrell’s advice is simple: at age 40 get a mammogram every year. “That saves the most lives and also saves the most years of life,” he said.

Dr. Farrell recommends women with greater risk factors get screened even younger. He is also a proponent of 3D mammography. It provides greater detail than regular, 2D mammography and is especially valuable uncovering the smallest of cancers in dense breast tissue. But not all women have the opportunity to get a 3D mammogram. “It’s expensive technology so it will take time for health systems across the country to implement it universally,” said Dr. Farrell. When asked if he would like to see 3D mammography standardized he replied, “In my opinion, yes, it should be the standard of care for screening.”

Memory is a firm believer whose imaging was done with 3D mammography. “It’s definitely a necessary tool that it lasts literally for a few seconds of discomfort to have that reassurance to know that you’re going to be fine health-wise,” she said. “And I am proof it can save your life.”

Since there’s no unified breast cancer screening recommendation, Dr. Farrell urges women to have the discussion with their health care provider and call your doctor if you see or feel any abnormalities.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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