It’s Time to #AskHer
Join Atlantic Health System in asking the women in your life if they have had their annual mammogram.
Lydia Nadeau, executive director of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, and Faith Goldman, MD, Atlantic Medical Group breast surgeon, discuss the #AskHer campaign and the importance of mammograms:
Mammograms save lives
Did you know that being a woman and getting older are the main risk factors for breast cancer? One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In fact, it remains the second leading cause of cancer death in women.
This is why breast cancer screening is so critical. According to Dr. Goldman, having a screening mammogram annually is the best way to detect breast cancer, and when found early, breast cancer is most easily treated with better outcomes. While that message has been promoted for years, life often gets in the way, and many women delay or forget to schedule their annual mammogram. This still holds true today, as regular appointments continue to take a backseat due to many external factors including the pandemic.
In fact, it is estimated that 41% of adults in the U.S. delayed or avoided medical care including screening during COVID. “Although recent data suggest we are returning to pre-pandemic levels, we remain hopeful that patients who delayed will choose to return now, adds Dr. Goldman. “Foregoing an opportunity to detect cancer before it spreads could be dangerous, so women should schedule their annual screening mammogram as soon as possible.”
Atlantic Health System’s #AskHer campaign
Breast cancer can truly affect anyone, so Atlantic Health System created #AskHer, a campaign to encourage all of us to reach out to the women in our lives – mothers, sisters, wives, and friends – and encourage them to make their appointment for an annual mammogram. For the seventh consecutive year, the campaign introduces conversations about the importance of mammograms and has been a call to action to women locally and nationwide.
Nadeau explains, “Our moms, our friends and our colleagues are really important to us and we ask them a lot of questions throughout the year. But we really never bring into the conversation the question: did you have your mammogram this year? We need to say, you’re really important to me and this is something we should talk about.”
Who is at risk for breast cancer?
All women have risks for breast cancer, even those without family history or genetic mutations, says Dr. Goldman. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), only 5 to 10% of breast cancer is hereditary.
There are multiple risk factors for breast cancer, including age, breast density, alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity or a sedentary lifestyle, but Dr. Goldman notes that the number one risk factor is just being a woman. She recommends having a frank discussion about your personal risks with a primary care physician, OB/GYN, or maybe even a breast specialist to determine frequency and type of screenings needed.
Furthermore, before a screening, women take a cancer risk assessment survey, with questions that will help the team understand individual risk factors. When did you start getting your period? When did you start having children? Did you breastfeed? Do you drink alcohol or smoke? Do you exercise? The answers to these questions can guide conversations with your care team about risk management and what you can do, in addition to screening mammograms, to be proactive about your breast health.
Nadeau explained that patients who are at a higher risk for breast cancer can meet with genetic counselors, dietitians, and medical oncologists. If advanced treatment is required, our team of surgeons, physicians, nurses and technologists personalize treatment plans to meet individual needs.
Why are mammograms so important and why should we encourage women to make appointments?
Atlantic Health System offers 3D MAMMOGRAMS, or digital breast tomosynthesis, that enables our imagers to get a three-dimensional picture of a woman’s breast tissue. Dr. Goldman said that these screenings give radiologists a much more accurate picture of what the breast tissue looks like and have been shown to increase detection and reduce callbacks.
Dr. Goldman adds mammograms are key to screening for breast cancer. They can detect breast cancer at its earliest stages, before women feel a lump, and when it is most treatable. The mortality from breast cancer has decreased by 30% since the start of screening mammography in the 1990s. Getting a screening mammogram annually is a straightforward, safe and affordable way for women to be active in their breast health. Early detection translates to better outcomes and ultimately saves lives, so women should schedule a mammogram every year.
Is there financial assistance available to qualified patents?
If there is a financial barrier to getting your mammogram, contact us at 973-971-6581. Nadeau adds, “We’re here to help you, and we will help navigate you to a mammogram. Please don’t let any financial barriers get in the way of your health.”
Where can I find more information about the #AskHer campaign and breast health?
Atlantic Health System is making it even easier for women to schedule a screening mammogram by offering online appointments at 10 locations throughout northern and central NJ. A prescription or referral is encouraged but not necessary for an annual routine screening mammogram.
This article was done in partnership with Atlantic Health System. Visit their website or call 1-844-343-3540 to learn more.