Are your bases covered? And by bases, I do mean the girls.
Regular self-exams and mammograms are the first line of defense in breast health, but baseline mammograms may be the first first line, so to speak. But almost half of women don’t know about baseline mammograms or why they’re important.
A baseline mammogram helps doctors and radiologists establish what your breast tissue looks like and become familiar with its density and any abnormalities. Having a baseline mammogram “significantly decreases” the risk of a false positive, according to the American College of Radiology.
A survey of 401 women (83 percent white, 93 percent with education after high school) found that 77 percent of respondents had yearly mammograms. Thirty-one percent reported having had at least one abnormal mammogram, and 45 percent reported not having heard the term “baseline mammography.” And a hefty 67 percent of women didn’t think baseline mammograms were important.
But they are.
A baseline mammogram is generally the first mammogram a woman gets. It could also be the first mammogram post-treatment or post-surgery, establishing a new baseline. Having a baseline gives radiologists an idea of what’s normal for a woman and helps them more accurately identify important changes in subsequent screenings. Having a baseline also reduces false-positives, a stressful experience that discourages women from getting their yearly mammograms.
Dr. Elizabeth Burnside, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, spoke to Reuters Health about the study, “In addition [to helping women play a role in their breast cancer screening], the baseline mammogram is the first opportunity to determine a woman’s breast density, an important breast cancer risk factor. Breast density, an active area of current study, may influence future decisions about future screening,” she said.
It’s hard for doctors to know what healthy looks like if we only visit when there’s something wrong. Baseline mammograms reduce false positives, help determine breast density and associated cancer risk, and help women play a more active role in their breast screening.
If you were looking for another reason to go get your mammogram, this is it. You should talk to your doctor about what screening schedule makes sense for you, but don’t wait until you notice that something is “off.” A screening while you’re healthy can help make it obvious when there’s something wrong and help you keep your breasts, and yourself, healthy.
And that’s the ultimate goal of any mammogram.
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.