We’ve all heard the stories about women changing their healthcare plans in the wake of COVID-19. Most prominently, women seem to be skipping their annual exams at an alarming rate. The impulse to do so is understandable. But Yankton Medical Clinic and the Vermillion Medical Clinic have put significant steps into place to make your visit safe.
After all, your annual exam is incredibly important to maintaining your health. That’s especially true when it comes to your mammogram, which can detect the earliest signs of breast cancer and greatly improve your chances of a healthy outcome.
What Happens During Your Annual Exam?
Annual visits for women are designed to perform two functions: build a baseline of your overall health and screen for specific health issues that are easier to prevent and treat in their earliest stages. For example, your exam may include the following:
- Blood pressure screening: Controlling high blood pressure (or hypertension) is absolutely essential for your long term health. Unchecked high blood pressure can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as causing other health issues.
- Cholesterol screening: Depending on your age and overall health, you may have your cholesterol screened every five years or so (the frequency of these screenings increases as you age). Keeping cholesterol at healthy levels can help prevent heart disease.
- Immunizations: Depending on your travel, lifestyle, and age, you may require specific immunizations during your annual visit. Most physicians recommend that patients receive an annual flu shot.
- Reproductive health screening: Beginning at age 21, a pelvic exam will become part of your annual visit. You may require a pap smear every 3-5 years, depending on your health and underlying conditions.
- Physical exam: Your doctor will also perform a physical exam in order to ensure your general wellbeing. You may be screened for diabetes, and you’ll likely discuss your overall diet and exercise regimen.
Additionally, for women who are over the age of forty or who have pre-existing risk factors, a mammogram and breast exam may become part of your annual screening. It’s no exaggeration to say that mammograms can be an essential and lifesaving part of your annual visits for women. That’s why breast cancer awareness and breast cancer prevention are both emphasized throughout our clinics.
What Happens During a Mammogram?
A mammogram is a specialized X-ray image taken of breast tissue. This diagnostic is designed to detect presentations of growth in the breast that could be caused by breast cancer.
We recommend that women begin annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40 or if you are in a high-risk category. Once you reach the age of 54, we recommend these screenings take place every two years.
Talk to your provider about what is best for you.
During your mammogram appointment at either our Yankton or Vermillion medical clinic, you’ll typically be asked to temporarily change into a gown. When the screening is ready to begin, your breast will be placed between two specially designed glass plates.
Some women may experience momentary discomfort or pain as pressure is applied to the breast tissue in order to flatten the tissue. This pressure will last less than three seconds and will cause no damage to the breast.
The entire mammogram screening process usually takes less than thirty minutes.
Your Mammogram will need to be interpreted by a radiologist, who will then send your doctor a written report. How long this process takes tends to vary, but you should be able to schedule a follow-up appointment, if necessary, with your physician in short order.
Why Undergo a Mammogram?
A mammogram is a vital procedure–for many women, it could substantially improve outcomes associated with breast cancer diagnoses. The benefits of a mammogram include:
- Early detection of breast cancer: When breast cancer is detected early, the prognosis of patients improves significantly. Early detection can reduce the risk of mortality from breast cancer by 25-30%.
- Peace of mind: For many women, a mammogram can deliver peace of mind, especially when they come up clear.
- Minimal radiation concerns: It’s true that, as a modified X-Ray diagnostic, mammograms use low doses of radiation in order to generate images. Modern X-Rays use much lower doses of radiation than older machines, making the process much healthier.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that a mammogram, in conjunction with other breast cancer prevention steps, can save your life. The same is true of annual visits for women. We’ve put a wide variety of safety procedures in place (you can see our COVID protocols here) to ensure your visit is a safe and productive one.
So if you’ve been putting it off–for whatever reason–it’s time to put yourself first and give us a call to schedule an appointment.