The annual mammogram: Necessary self-care for women age 40 and older
Health, Op/Eds, U.S. & World

The annual mammogram: Necessary self-care for women age 40 and older

Rebecca Barnabi
(© Phongsakorn –

This morning I went to an appointment that all women dread: my annual mammogram appointment.

I was asked to fill out a breast history survey on a tablet and realized I’ve been getting mammograms for almost 20 years.

Most women do not begin getting annual mammograms until after age 40. I actually have a college friend who got her first mammogram this year.

However, during college, I found a lump. I ended up having a breast biopsy during my junior year of college after a technician told me that if I were his daughter he would encourage me to get a biopsy and make sure it was nothing to worry about. It turned out to be a fibroadenoma, which mimics cancer.

I do not have to worry about a history of cancer on either my mom’s or my dad’s sides of the family, except for skin cancer on my mom’s side. But a breast condition on my mom’s side puts me not only at risk but at risk that if I ever get breast cancer, it will not easily be detected.

I often get called back for an ultrasound or additional tests after an annual mammogram. My technician today told me she wishes patients understood the difference between a screening and a diagnostic testing for breast cancer.

Today was the screening for breast cancer for me. If they call me for additional tests, that does not mean I have cancer.

My technician told me today that patients seem to think if they are called back for more testing then that means the imaging center is inferior. I’ve always known that it means the technicians are being thorough with making sure nothing out of the ordinary is going on.

Let me say that again: if you are called back for more testing after an annual mammogram, the technicians want to be thorough in ensuring your breast tissue is normal and cancer-free.

My other point about writing this today is that if you have not had a mammogram in more than 12 months, close this website, open the phone screen of your iPhone and call to make an appointment.

Mammogram screenings save lives. We are fortunate to have the technology we have today, such as 3D mammography, for early detection of breast cancer.

If you’re still reading this, I assume you’ve had a mammogram in the last 12 months.

If not, close this article now and call for an appointment.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it will be here before we know it. Cancer can also show up without your knowing. If you are at risk and/or age 40 and older, get an annual mammogram every year.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.

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