UK HealthCare

Women Urged to get Screened on National Mammography Day

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 21) — As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Oct. 21 is National Mammography Day. The purpose of the day is to encourage millions of American women to receive, sign up for, or make a commitment to get a screening mammogram.

Dr. Margaret Szabunio, chief of women’s radiology and associate medical director for the Markey Cancer Center's Comprehensive Breast Care Center, says too many women are forgoing their mammograms and coming in with late-stage cancers that could have been detected earlier.

"Many women feel it's unnecessary to come in as long as they show no symptoms, while others don't come in for screening because they're afraid of what we may find," Szabunio said. "Unfortunately, for many of those women, the cancers are found too late. If a mammogram finds cancer and it's in an early stage, that's a good thing. It's highly treatable."

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast tissue. During a mammogram, the breast is compressed to even out the thickness of the tissue, decrease radiation dose to the breast, and improve the image quality. The technician will take top and side view images of both breasts, which are sent to a radiologist for reading.

For every 1,000 women screened, about 80 will be called back for additional evaluation.  Out of those, 15 will be recommended for a biopsy, and about a third of those will be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

While self-exams are considered the first line of defense, a mammogram can sometimes detect a tumor up to three years before it can be felt. Just last week, Kentucky Secretary of State Elaine Walker announced she had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, with an excellent prognosis for survival, after a routine mammogram.

Mammograms are not perfect, and they are especially less sensitive in women with dense breast tissue, but diagnostic technology continues to improve. The Comprehensive Breast Care Center will soon have equipment in place to offer breast tomosynthesis, a 3-D technology that allows radiologists to see individual breast structures without the confusion of overlapping tissues. In addition to providing the traditional top and side images of the breasts, tomosynthesis also allows the technician to take multiple X-ray pictures of each breast from many angles.

When the new tomosynthesis equipment arrives by January, UK will be the only medical center in the state with the technology. Szabunio, who came to UK from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., specializes in early detection of breast cancer using new technologies including elastography and tomosynthesis.

"Tomosynthesis produces images in tiny slices that can be reconstructed into a 3-D image of the tissue, similar to way a CT scanner works," Szabunio said. "It allows us to look at breast tissue in a way we've never been able to before."

The American College of Radiology and the American Cancer Society recommend that all women should have a screening mammogram and a physical breast examination each year, beginning at the age of 40 unless the patient has a family history of the disease. To make an appointment for a mammogram at the Comprehensive Breast Care Center, call (859) 257-4488 or toll free (866) 340-4488.

MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Perry, (859) 323-2399 or