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Get the Facts on Radiation Exposure and Mammograms

Sugar Land, TX - 8/31/2011

When you think of radiation exposure, does a nuclear power plant disaster come to mind? How about airport scanners? Or medical imaging such as CT scans and mammograms? There have been media reports questioning dangerous levels of radiation exposure from these sources, and as a result, there’s growing concern about the safety of mammograms and other imaging routinely used for detecting diseases like breast cancer.

Kelly Dempsey, M.D.; Stephen Phillips, M.D. and Sandra Templeton, M.D.Kelly Dempsey, M.D.; Stephen Phillips, M.D. and Sandra Templeton, M.D.

The fact is, the health benefits of getting a mammogram that may help diagnose breast cancer in its early stages far outweigh any risk of radiation associated with the test.

“It’s important for women to know that mammograms are considered safe, and it’s proven that they can save lives,” says Kelly Dempsey, M.D., board-certified surgeon specializing in breast surgery. The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society recommend that women age 40 and older get mammograms every one to two years. “Women with above-average risk for breast cancer should talk with their doctor about when to start screening and how often to get mammograms,” Dr. Dempsey adds.

Risks associated with radiation exposure from mammograms and other X-rays are minimal. “There is a slightly elevated risk of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation, but the amount of radiation from a mammogram is very low, and the benefit of early detection of cancer far outweighs the risk,” says Stephen Phillips, M.D., board-certified breast radiologist and medical director of the Breast Center at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.

In fact, the amount of radiation exposure in one mammogram is the equivalent of the same radiation exposure you get from natural sources alone in seven weeks. Natural background sources of radiation occur in the atmosphere, such as radon gas found in homes, minerals in the ground and cosmic rays from outer space.

“For women age 40 and older, regular mammograms read by a breast radiologist and clinical breast exams with a health care provider are powerful screening tools in detecting cancer early,” emphasizes Sandra Templeton, M.D., board-certified surgeon specializing in breast surgery. “Mammograms help physicians detect small tumors in the early stages of cancer, when there are more treatment options and greater chance of survival.”

The Breast Center at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital limits unnecessary exposure to radiation by using the lowest dose possible for all kinds of screening tests, including mammograms. Digital mammography equipment provides higher-quality images and a lower radiation dose compared to film mammography. “In addition, our Breast Center is reviewed by national and international radiology protection councils to make sure we are meeting certain safety standards,” Dr. Phillips says. To schedule a mammogram at the Breast Center, please call 281-242-PINK (7465).

Free Seminar: Join a multi-disciplinary panel of physicians to discuss Updates on Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment and have your questions answered. October 19 at 6:00 p.m., located at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital Conference Center. Seating is limited, call today to make reservations. 281-274-7500.

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