Many women skipping mammograms - Tucson News Now

Many women skipping mammograms

Study shows many woman are skipping mammograms (Photo source: Wikipedia) Study shows many woman are skipping mammograms (Photo source: Wikipedia)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Mammograms can be an important tool for women's health. But new research shows that many women are skipping their mammograms.

As Celeste Calapini stops to give a hug to Dr. Albert Wendt, she says it is just a small thanks for saving her life.

 “I  am cancer-free since December, thanks to Dr. Wendt,” she smiles.

But, Dr. Wendt with the University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph's in Phoenix, says Calapini also deserves credit for her success in beating breast cancer. That's because she took steps to catch it early. “Mammograms saved my life,” Calapini says.

It was a mammogram that caught a cancer so small that Calapini never noticed it, “I do breast examinations every month, but, it is so tiny even when they were showing it to me, I didn't know what I was looking at.”

Dr. Wendt says, “So that is the way we like to find it, before it has become invasive. Because the non-invasive cancers don't really have that much of a chance to spread elsewhere in the body.” And, he adds, right now a mammogram is the best tool to catch those cancers early,

And that belief is what makes a new Dignity Health survey so discouraging.

The survey indicates that 53 percent of women over age 40 who have not had a mammogram in the past, also do not plan on having one in the future. This, despite being in a higher risk group, says Dr. Wendt, “three-fourths of women are over 40, and two-thirds are over 50.”

Dr. Wendt says he hears all kinds of answers as to why women skip them: "I don't have it in my family. I am not really at that much risk. I think I will be fine.” 

Dr. Wendt says family history is a risk factor, but not as much as people might think.“Seventy percent of people who get breast cancer don’t have a family history.” 

There are also other factors in skipping mammograms. "There is the embarrassment; there is the fear of pain," he says.

Calapini agrees it is not the most pleasant experience, “It is not; they will squeeze you in both directions," she says.

And Dr. Wendt says mammograms alone are not perfect. “So I tell my patients that mammograms can find things exam doesn't, and an exam can find abnormalities that the imaging cannot find.”

One encouraging statistic from the study is that once women have a mammogram, they say they are more likely to have another and more likely to recommend others do the same, “Once they get it behind them the unknown is no longer a fear factor.” 

He says studies have shown they not only increase detection rates, but also survivability rates.

Calapani says that should be a good enough reason for anyone. “I would encourage everyone to do mammograms especially women who are young and have children," she says "If you love yourself, do it for your children and your family.”

Finding a cancer early also gives doctors more options for treatment. Calapini had a lumpectomy as opposed to a mastectomy, something she was able to do because the cancer was very small and had not spread.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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