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'Mammogram parties' take fear out of procedure

July 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every 12 minutes a woman in America dies of breast cancer. With early detection though, doctors believe that number could be significantly reduced. Unfortunately, many women still put them off. That's why some hope hosting a "mammogram party" might help.

Relaxing with a massage, being pampered with a manicure: No, it's not a day spa. It's a mammogram party. The parties are sweeping the nation, helping take the stress out of getting mammograms.

"This way, being around other people it takes the nervousness away," said Judith Wiersema, who attended a mammogram party.

"We would like to see more women coming out and actually participating in screening mammography," said Dr. Mickey Jester, a radiologist. "It saves lives."

The American Cancer Society recommends all women over the age of 40 get a mammogram every year. But only two out of three women say they've gotten a mammogram in the last two years.

You don't have to be afraid.

Let's separate fact from fiction.

True or false? You do not need to get a breast exam if you get a yearly mammogram. False: A mammogram only picks up 85 percent of lesions.

Drinking caffeinated beverages can cause breast cancer. False: A new study shows it may reduce your risk, but drinking high amounts can make your breasts more sensitive during a mammogram.

The radiation you receive from a mammogram does not cause cancer. True: The risk of harm from radiation exposure is very small and that risk decreases as a woman ages.

Those with a family history of breast cancer should consult with their doctor about whether to have mammograms before age 40 and how often to have them.

Massages, Manicures and Mammograms?

MAKING MAMMOGRAMS FUN: Mammogram parties are becoming more popular across the United States as more hospitals are throwing them to get women in for regular breast cancer screenings. The events are held in spa settings. It's like having a baby shower in a medical room complete with snacks, games, goody bags, massages, manicures and pedicures. The overall goal of the mammogram parties is to help women overcome their fear of what is often a stressful procedure. In most party settings the women are able to have their mammogram done before or after the festivities.

SPREADING THE WORD: With events like mammogram parties, awareness is steadily increasing. The sooner breast cancer is caught the greater the chance of beating it. Although these parties are known for their fun, information about breast cancer and early detection is also provided to help continue to educate women about these issues.

TIPS FOR A BETTER MAMMOGRAM: Before you head in for your mammogram, here are a few things you'll want to keep in mind:

On the day of your mammogram, don't use deodorant, lotion, cream, or powder on your underarms or breasts. These could interfere with a clear mammogram.

If your breasts get tender around the time of menstruation, schedule your mammogram for one week after your period ends.

If you've had mammograms at another facility, have those mammograms available to the radiologist at your current exam. Also bring a list of places and dates of earlier mammograms, as well as biopsies and other breast treatments.

Before your exam, discuss any breast symptoms or problems you are having.

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