• Last modified 550 days ago (Oct. 19, 2017)


Mammogram can be 1st step in cancer screening

Staff writer

The typical first step in discovering breast cancer is a mammogram done at a local hospital.

Keri Helmer, mammography and radiology technician at St. Luke Hospital in Marion, said holistic digital mammography has drastically reduced the number of patients who have to be called back for additional testing after an initial mammogram.

She usually spends time talking to patients who have come in for a test to help them relax.

“Some people have had a bad experience in the past or a new to mammography and heard all the worst,” Helmer said.

The compression needed to get a clear image can be uncomfortable, but she tries to avoid compressing so much it causes pain.

“Compression is a big key to getting a good picture,” Helmer said.

American Cancer Society recommends women have annual mammograms by age 45, and can reduce frequency to every two years at age 55 if they wish.

Women should also know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider.

If additional testing is needed after a mammogram, a radiologist will typically request specific screens, then may request ultrasound imaging. An MRI might be needed after that.

Biopsy, if needed, is usually done in Newton, Helmer said.

Breast self-examination, formerly much-emphasized in screening for cancer, is no longer as heavily encouraged, Helmer said.

Last modified Oct. 19, 2017