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Technology making breast cancer screenings better, easier at Mayo Clinic Health System

EAU CLAIRE — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while breast cancer is still the most common cancer among women, technology is making the screening process easier than ever.

New this year is the opportunity for patients to self-schedule a screening mammogram appointment. Patients who can do this will be sent an email from their care team letting them know they can schedule an appointment. They will log in to Patient Online Services, Mayo Clinic Health System’s patient portal, and select a date, time and location that will work best for their schedule.

In addition, patients who visit Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire have greater access to enhanced technology for breast cancer screenings. Breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography machines) enables physicians to see cancers earlier, especially in women with denser breast tissue. The technology also has shown to reduce the recall rate, meaning patients are less likely to be called back for a second screening.

“More than 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and survivability improves when cancers are found early,” says Cameron Leitch, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System radiologist.

When used for breast cancer screening, 3D mammogram machines create 3D and 2D mammogram images. Studies show that combining 3D mammograms with standard mammograms reduces the need for additional imaging and slightly increases the number of cancers detected during screening.

Breast cancer prevention is also important. Some risk factors, such as family history, can’t be changed. However, these lifestyle changes can lower your risk:

Limit alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. The general recommendation is to limit yourself to less than one drink per day, as even small amounts increase risk.

Don’t smoke. Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women.

Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.

Be physically active. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer.

Breastfeed. Breast-feeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effect.

Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you’re taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your health care provider about other options. You might be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies and medications.

Be vigilant about breast cancer detection. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your provider. Also, ask when to begin mammograms and other screenings based on your personal history.

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