Mammograms and Clinical Breast Exams
Why is early detection of breast cancer important?
One in eight women develop cancer in their breasts, which makes breast cancer the most common type of cancer (after skin cancer) among American women. Fortunately, if breast cancer is found early, there is a much greater chance that it can be cured.
What are mammograms & clinical breast exams?
Mammograms and clinical breast exams are useful tools in the early detection of breast cancer. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast. During a mammogram, the breast is placed between two plates and some pressure is applied to get a clear picture of the top and side of the breast. The X-rays can reveal cancer in the breast years before it can be felt. During a clinical breast exam, a health professional feels the breasts and underarms, searching for lumps or any other changes in their shape or appearance.
Who needs to be concerned about breast cancer?
Even if none of these risk factors apply to you, you are not "safe" from breast cancer. The biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer is being a woman!
The following women are at increased risk for breast cancer:
- Women with a family history of breast cancer;
- Women over the age of 50;
- Women who have never given birth or who had their first child after the age of 30;
- Women who had an early first period or late menopause;
- Women who have already had cancer in one breast.
What can I do to prevent breast cancer?
Breast cancer is not yet preventable, but by having recommended mammograms and clinical breast exams, you increase your chances of finding breast cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most curable. Be sure to follow these early detection schedules:
- Women age 40-69: Have a mammogram every one to two years, and a clinical breast exam every year.
Women at increased risk may need to be examined earlier or more often. Be sure to consult your doctor!
Women who undergo mastectomies are eligible for certain breast reconstruction benefits. HAP provides coverage for:
- Reconstruction of a breast that has been surgically removed by mastectomy
- Surgery on and reconstruction of the other breast as needed to produce a symmetrical appearance
- Complications arising from any aspect of the mastectomy, including swelling of the surrounding tissues after surgery (lymphedema)