NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Middlesex Health Radiologist Dr. Sarah O’Connell is here via zoom to share the importance of breast cancer screenings.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, but, unfortunately, there are often no signs of breast cancer until the cancer is more advanced and a mass is felt in the breast. That is why getting a routine breast screening is so important—even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Breast screenings can help find cancers when they are small, and therefore more treatable, and this can result in better outcomes.

Middlesex Health uses 3D mammography, which detects 40 percent more invasive breast cancers than a 2D test. Mammograms are often used in conjunction with screening breast ultrasound, which can find additional cancers in women with dense breasts. Some women at high risk for breast cancer may benefit from additional screening, and a breast MRI may be recommended. A breast MRI can detect cancers not seen on a mammogram or ultrasound.

Dual-headed molecular breast imaging may also be used for breast screening. Molecular breast imaging uses a radioactive tracer to better detect breast cancer cells, particularly in those who have dense breasts. Together, these tests give patients the best possible chance at early detection.

You need a prescription, or order, from your doctor to get a mammogram. A mammogram is a quick procedure. It only takes about 20 minutes, and discomfort is minimal for most women. “An unusual finding does not always mean that you have breast cancer,” says Dr. Sarah O’Connell, a radiologist with Middlesex Health.

It is recommended that all women 40 and older get routine mammograms. These screenings save the most lives when started at that age. Breast cancer incidence increases substantially around age 40. In fact, one in six breast cancers occur in women aged 40 to 49.

Note: If you have a high risk of breast cancer, a medical provider may recommend that screening begin at a younger age.

In addition to feeling a lump in the breast, signs of breast cancer can include dimpling or puckering of the skin, swelling or enlargement of the breast, bloody nipple discharge, persistent rash or redness of the breast, and a change in the appearance of the nipple.

Middlesex Health’s diagnostic imaging facilities in Middletown and Westbrook are each designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.

Diagnostic imaging is just one service offered by Middlesex Health Cancer Center’s Comprehensive Breast Center, which provides complete breast health care to women at all ages and levels of risk.

Middlesex Health Cancer Center is recognized for providing excellent care for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment that meets and exceeds national standards. It is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.

To learn more, click here.