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October is Breast Cancer Awareness month – why “get squished?”

by Dr. Lisa Thompson, MD, MBA

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I’m reminded that it’s time to “get squished.” Yes, that’s my affectionate term for the mammogram — a special X-ray of the breasts that can save your life.

If you delayed regular screenings like mammograms during the pandemic, you’re not alone. It’s not too late to get back on track.

Why “get squished?”

  1. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women and the number one cause of new cancer cases among all women. One of every eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer.  
  2. The best way to beat breast cancer is to find it early. In early stages, it is easier to treat, and there is a higher chance of survival.
  3. A mammogram is the best test for catching breast cancer in its early stages. It can find cancer when it is still too tiny to cause symptoms, like a lump in the breast. Mammograms can save lives.
  4. “Getting squished” isn’t so bad — and there are steps you can take to ease any discomfort. Many women skip scheduling their mammograms because they are afraid it hurts. Even though I jokingly say, “get squished,” mammograms do not really hurt. The machine simply puts some pressure on your breasts, so they do not move around, and the tissue is flattened a little. This lets the radiologist see all images of your breasts clearly. Here are some things you can do to lessen the discomfort:
    • If you have questions or concerns, ask the mammogram technicians. They are experts at making sure you are comfortable during the test. It’s OK to let them know if you’re feeling uneasy.
    • Schedule the test 1-2 weeks after your period starts. Your breasts are less likely to be tender or swollen.
    • Try to have a good frame of mind when you go in for your test. Realize that a couple of minutes with a little discomfort is worth it.

Mammograms can save lives. Is it time for your mammogram? Call your doctor to find out when you should “get squished.” Don’t just do it for yourself; do it for those people in your life who love you.

Dr. Lisa Thompson is the medical director for Anthem Nevada Medicaid.