9/12/02 - Buddy Check 12: Mammograms

On the 12th of each month, as part of our Buddy Check 12 program, we encourage all women to do monthly self exams and to get yearly mammograms.  Mammograms have come a long way to help early detection of breast cancer.  Women should get their first mammogram when they're 35, and start getting one every year after they turn 40.  A simple step that can save lives.

Mammography technologist Robin Lacy says, "When you have a lump we almost call that too late."  That's why Lacy, a mammography technologist for 12 years, says when women hit 40, they should start getting yearly mammograms.  "You want your mammogram for things you can't feel and don't realize they're there but they are," Lacy says.

Mammograms are basically a x-ray of your breast tissue.  When a woman gets one done, the machine compresses your breast.  It does cause some discomfort, but it's necessary in order to get accurate results.  "Compression keeps motion down and reduces the amount of radiation we have to do to the breast to the main breast tissue," Lacy says.  "It separates breast tissue so we can see."  Then they take four pictures. Two straight up and down and two sideways of each breast.

Lacy says it's important for a woman to get a mammogram every year because they look for subtle changes from one year to the next.  "A mammogram helps you understand what your breast tissue is and what you're feeling," Lacy says.  "If the next year there are changes and you're feeling bumps and grooves let's get this checked out."  Lacy says her job is rewarding, because over the years, she's met several women who say mammograms have saved their lives.

When you get your mammogram done, find a place you like and want to go back to year after year, so they can see if there are any changes in your results.  Most insurance companies do cover yearly mammograms, as long as women get them 12 months apart.