Annual mammograms can detect breast cancer and save lives

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States according to the Mayo Clinic.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and getting regular mammograms is one best ways to identify cysts, calcifications and tumors within the breast.

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Women who age 40 or older should schedule a screening every year.

Laura Clark is the program coordinator of the breast clinic at New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Zimmer Cancer Center. She’s also a certified breast cancer navigator.

With the coronavirus pandemic, it caused some mammogram screenings to be slightly delayed.

“Initially, we were a few weeks behind and then caught up when we implemented masks, screening and distancing,” Clark said. “My mammogram was delayed a few weeks and then I had no trouble getting right in when The Medical Mall called to reschedule.”

When you arrive for a screening at the NHRMC Medical Mall, Clark says staff is following protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“All chairs are distanced for safety,” Clark said. “While I was receiving my mammogram, my technician had eye wear and a mask on.”

Here’s a little known fact: breast cancer also affects men.

“One to two percent of cases are men,” Clark said. “It’s usually found with a palpable lump.”

In between annual mammograms, she recommends doing monthly checks at home.

“Pick a day, the first day of the month, and use that day as your reminder to take 60 seconds look in the mirror,” Clark said. “Put your hands at your side or over your head and look for any discoloration, skin changes, inversion in your nipple, or any nipple discharge.”

If you detect any abnormal changes, report them to your primary care physician or gynecologist.

“If you do not have a primary care physician, that would be a good time to reach out and find one so you can have a screening mammogram,” Clark said.

Individuals in the Cape Fear who have a primary care physician within NHRMC can go on the hospital’s “My Chart Personal Health Record” portal online and request a mammogram appointment screening.

Free or low-cost mammograms are available through the North Carolina Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (NC BCCCP). Click here to find out if you are eligible.

You can also find our more information about free or low-cost exams by contacting the New Hanover County Health Department or your local health department.