October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Published 1:50 pm Monday, October 23, 2023

By Jordan Brooks


On average, about one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the U.S., and ACS recommends annual mammograms for women over 40. Early detection saves lives, leads to more successful treatments and increases survival rates.

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In recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Radiology Services Director with Middlesboro ARH, Amy Odam, says the American College of Radiology recommends performing monthly self breast exams. Symptoms of breast cancer can include any deviations, such as lumps, nipple indentation, wrinkling of the skin, nipple discharge or nipple or breast pain.

The ACR also recommends that any patient 35 and older get annual screenings if there is a family history of breast cancer.

Odam says Middlesboro ARH has other ways to screen for the disease for those younger than 30 who have a family history of breast cancer or are perhaps unaware.

“For someone at the age of 25 we would start with a breast ultrasound, our two dedicated breast radiologists, with expertise, extra training, credentials specific to breasts, for a 25-year-old who is not sure of their family history we would start with an ultrasound simply because there is no radiation involved,” said Odam. “Depending on that result the radiologist may recommend a mammogram.”

Every year in October, Middlesboro ARH offers $50 mammograms for patients who don’t have insurance, and include both the screening and the report. Middlesboro ARH also offers a self referral program, useful for patients who do not have a primary care doctor.

“We have an ARH physician who will pick that patient up and will do a mammogram. That way if your screening comes back abnormal and you need any kind of follow up, we have a doctor who will follow up on that for you,” said Odam.

Middlesboro ARH offers late and after-hours appointments to accommodate patients who work late.

Middlesboro ARH has the only local 3D tomosynthesis unit, which is a three-dimensional mammogram that uses X-rays to obtain sectional images of the breast, which are then reconstructed into a 3D volume. Tomosynthesis is performed by moving the X-ray tube on a circular arch and making a series of low-dose exposures, from different angles, in a few seconds. This unit improves the ability to detect early breast cancer, and decreases the number of callbacks.

Odem says the rules and guidelines surrounding breast cancer are always changing. For example, just a few years ago, when the Covid vaccines had just came out, The American College of Radiology recommended that women who had the Covid vaccine not get a mammogram for six months afterwards because it was showing lymph node enlargement, making things look abnormal.