DEAR ABBY: I am a mammography technologist. Please help me tell mammogram patients how important it is for them to bring in their old mammogram films when they go to a new X-ray office for this test.
Only if the radiologist who reads the films has the old ones for comparison can he or she determine if the shadows are old or new. Without those films for comparison, the patient may have to undergo more mammography X-rays, and perhaps also a biopsy that might have been avoided had the old films been available to the doctor.
Because of changing insurance, it is not always possible for women to have mammograms done at the same place every time. A patient needs only to keep track of where her mammograms were taken so she can call and ask about the procedure for releasing the films to her. The films will be at the X-ray office where they were taken, not at her doctor's office. If she can't remember, her doctor should be able to tell her.
Don't let anyone tell you that mammograms aren't necessary! -- HOLLY GORDON, FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CALIF.
DEAR HOLLY: Thank you for giving women this important reminder, and for giving me the opportunity to reprint these recommendations from the American Cancer Society for early breast cancer detection.
(1) Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year.
(2) Between the ages of 20 and 39, women should have a clinical breast exam by a health professional every three years. At age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.
(3) Women age 20 or older should perform a breast self-exam (BSE) every month.
(4) If a change occurs, a woman should see her health provider as soon as possible for evaluation.
The American Cancer Society can provide free information on how to perform a BSE by calling (800) 227-2345. You will be referred to your nearest ACS office.