IU Health Saxony Hospital

Mammograms – What you need to know

October 11, 2019

There are a few things holding some women back from getting an annual mammogram. Ashley Poe team leader of mammography at IU Health Saxony talks about some of those issues.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes tfender1@iuhealth.org

Educating others is the best part of Ashley Poe’s job as team leader of mammography at IU Health Saxony. And as she talks with patients she learns exactly what holds them back from regular mammograms.

“A lot of women don’t think they need them every year and a lot of women don’t think they need them if they don’t have a family history of breast cancer,” said Poe. She started working with IU Health nine years ago and is passionate about helping others learn about the benefits of annual mammograms.

Working with four mammographers including Rita Keeling and Monica Bulmahn, and Dr. Matthew J. Nartker, radiology administrator, Poe says team members see anywhere from 25-30 patients a day. And still, there are women who choose not to get a mammogram for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

  • They worry about it taking too much time. Truth: A mammogram takes about 20 minutes.
  • Some have heard horror stories about the compression. Truth: “I’d say for the most part people are surprised about how much less it hurts than what they have heard,” said Poe. “I attribute that to the improvements in technology and the way the compression time has been reduced.”
  • They are concerns about false positive results: Truth: A 3D mammogram has become standard. What that means is the improved imagining combines multiple breast x-rays into a 3-dimensional image that helps radiologists better detect any signs of cancer.
  • There is no family history of breast cancer so they don’t see the need for screenings. Truth: “Genetic-linked breast cancer only accounts for about 15 percent of all breast cancers. Most of the patients we diagnose have no family history,” said Poe.
  • They want immediate results. Truth: Although the technologist does not provide the results of the imaging, if there is any abnormality spotted, a patient receives a call from a doctor - such as a fellowship-trained breast radiologist – within 24-48 hours of the detection.
  • Some worry about being exposed to radiation. Truth: Radiation is minimal. “A lot of times when we catch the cancer it is at Stage 0 or 1 which shows the importance of getting regular mammograms,” said Poe.

“We follow the guidelines by the American College of Radiology which recommends women begin getting annual mammograms at the age of 40,” said Poe. “We tell patients mammography is based on comparison. We want to see the breast stay the same from year to year. If they’re having them annually we can detect changes easier and find cancer at the earliest stages when it is most treatable.”

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