Throughout a person’s life, they experience new medical procedures and/or tests to make sure they stay as healthy as possible in life. As teenagers people may get wisdom teeth removed, at the age of 21 women should get their first pap smear, men aged 50 and older are recommended to get a prostate exam, but women above the age of 40, experience a constant reminder in October to have their annual mammogram.
A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast tissue, which doctors will ust to look for early signs of breast cancer. In Dickinson County, the Memorial Hospital offers women the chance to use a brand new 3-D mammography machine.
“We’ve gone from film screen to digital mammography to 3-D mammography,” Kari Smith, a mammography tech for Memorial Hospital said. “ So the most recent machine, the biggest difference, we are getting a 3-D picture of the breast instead of just a 2-D picture, which gives just a lot more information for the radiologist. It also has some comfort features that the older machine didn’t have, like a flex paddle, so it’s a bendable paddle instead of such a stiff paddle. So it helps make the exam more comfortable for the patient.”
“Women with dense breast tissue in particular may benefit because it provides a clearer picture,” Smith added.
While most women don’t start having a clinical breast exam and an annual mammogram until the age of 40, Smith does remind that people can perform self breast exams and reach out if they feel something is wrong within the breast tissue.
According to breastcancer.org, a person can perform a self breast exam in five steps: 1. Stand in front of the mirror with shoulders straight with arms to the hips and look for any changes in size, shape, color and nipple placement, 2. Raise arms above the head and look over the breasts once again, 3. Look for any signs of liquid discharge from the nipple 4. While lying down, use a firm and circular touch to detect any bumps under the skin, 5. repeat step 4 but standing or sitting.
For those who haven’t experienced their first mammogram, Smith described how the visit will go and what to expect.
“So anyone coming in for an appointment would come to our department and get registered at the front desk,” Smith said. “When we’re ready for the patient, we call them from the waiting room and they’ll come back to the exam room. We’ll get a patient history about any breast issues and relevant history for their mammogram. After we get the history, we have the patient change. They take everything off from the waist up and then wipe off any deodorant if they are wearing any and then put a gown on with the opening in the front. When the patient is ready, they come out of the dressing room. We do four pictures, two of each breast, typically and that is about it.”
With 13 years of experience as mammography tech, Smith enjoys helping take care of women and that aspect of their health. Smith, with the help of mammography tech Sharon Gleason and their director Rhonda Schmidt, assist women from all backgrounds get their annual mammography exam. Through Memorial Hospital, uninsured women in Dickinson County can still get their annual check without worrying about money.