By Carmen K. Johnson

Getting an annual mammogram is an essential part of early breast cancer detection along, with breast self-exams and an annual clinical exam by a gynecologist.  BPHC’s Pink and Black campaign emphasizes that all three of these procedures are important to risk reduction, espeically for black women are more likely to die after being diagnosed with breast cancer than women of other races.

Mammography should begin at age 40 (or even younger if you have a close relative who is or was a breast cancer survivor, i.e. mother, sister, etc.)  Many women fear getting a mammogram, complaining about pain they’ve heard about from other woman. An x-ray of each breast is done, which involves squeezing the breast between two glass plates for a few seconds. Yes, there is some pinching, pain, or pulling. However, this is a small inconvenience compared to the pain of an undetected growing tumor.

Mammography is not perfect.  A tumor can remain undetected if a woman has dense tissue or the tumor is close to the chest wall.  That is why the breast self-exam and the professional clinical exam are important as well.

Check with your gynecologist about where and when to have your mammogram done.  It is possible that it could be done at your local hospital or health center.  Locally, the Dana-Farber mammography van visits locations throughout Boston and neighboring towns.

Mammograms are available by appointment – regardless of ability to pay – by connecting with any one of Boston’s Community Health Centers.  The van publishes a calendar, showing when it will be visiting each local health center.  Contact the van office during regular business hours (9am to 5:30pm, Monday through Friday) at 617-632-1974 or check out their website.

Carmen K. Johnson is the program coordinator for BPHC’s Pink and Black Campaign, which was launched in 2005 to draw attention to the disparities in breast cancer survival faced by black women. Learn more here