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Health Watch: Fairbanks Breast Cancer Detection Center discusses importance of mammograms

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 4:14 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and an important tool for fighting breast cancer is mammograms.

According to Odette Butler, CEO of the Breast Cancer Detection Center (BCDC), mammograms give patients a much better chance of survival by catching the cancer early.

“Mammograms are your first line of defense for finding breast cancer early, so that you can have a better chance at surviving it should cancer be found,” Butler said. “We here at BCDC still recommend that women have their mammograms at least once a year. I know that there are other recommendations out there as far as every two years, but we strongly still feel that cancer grows quickly in some women. So every year is still our standard.”

Butler continued, “And even with COVID, I know it’s harder for women to get out to have their exams, or they’re scared about how safe it could be. Here, we are practicing state safety protocols so that women can feel comfortable coming in here and having their exam. Breast cancer doesn’t wait for COVID, so you should come and have your mammogram still. It is still safe.”

BCDC also recommends, along with yearly mammograms, that women begin receiving them by a certain age.

“We also still recommend that women do self breast exams at age 20,” Butler elaborated, “and we are still recommending that women start mammograms at age 40 unless you have a family history. Because there are different recommendations, we still strongly feel that you’re to do whatever your doctor asks you to do. So when you’re having your annual exam, talk to your doctor and see what the recommendation is.”

BCDC also strives to make sure any patient can receive a mammogram despite financial or insurance issues, according to Butler.

“We do mammograms here regardless of a woman’s ability to pay,” Butler explained. “So if you don’t have insurance, we can get you qualified for the Ladies First Program. Or if you don’t qualify for the Ladies First Program, we have what we call our Mammo Assist Program that helps pay. So there’s no reason or excuse for not having a mammogram.”

Butler continued, “A couple of years ago we dropped the requirement for women to need a referral to come here for a mammogram. You can call here anytime to schedule an exam as long as you have a follow up doctor that we can send the reports to. So the first thing you would do is schedule a mammogram. Our waiting periods are very short, we usually can get you in within the week if not two weeks. Once you come in, you will fill out some paperwork and you will be seen quickly. I’ve seen women out of here as soon as 10 minutes.”

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