Hattiesburg radiologist takes the fear out of mammograms

Hattiesburg radiologist takes the fear out of mammograms

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Many women with breast cancer have no symptoms, according to the American Cancer Society. That is why Merit Health Wesley Women's Center Staff Radiologist Dr. Steven Cunningham said breast cancer screenings are so important.

He said mammograms are an important step to prevention, and women should use someone else's experience in their decision to get a mammogram.

"A lot of ladies who've never experienced a mammogram before may have gotten some erroneous information from friends and family about how painful it is," Cunningham said. "That is all relative to each patient, but the majority of ladies that do come for mammograms don't experience any significant pain."

Dr. Cunningham said when patients walk into the mammogram screening room at the Women's Center they won't be alone.

"When the lady comes into the breast center, she will be accompanied by a technologist, who actually acquires the images," he said. "They will make sure that they are positioned correctly here in the mammography unit, and they will apply some compression to the breast to try to make sure that we get the best images possible. We will get images in two planes: one from above and then one from side to side so that we can analyze the breast appropriately at the work station."

Cunningham said the process doesn't take long.

"The actual procedure itself is less than 10 minutes," Cunningham said.

Dr. Cunningham explained what he is looking for when he receives the scans.

"I am looking for any number of things," Cunningham said. "In screening mammography, we're dealing with patients who have no history or known history of cancer. So, what I'm required to do is to make sure that I find cancer at its smallest, or at its earliest stage."

He added the general consensus of the age group that should start mammogram screenings is still 40 years old.

"Unless you have a mother or sister or first- degree relative that had breast cancer, then we probably want to taper it to make sure the patient gets screened five to ten years before that family member was diagnosed," Cunningham said.

Merit Health Wesley is offering a $99 mammogram special at the Women's Center throughout October. Appointments are required, so to schedule a screening mammogram call 601-296-3400.

If you are thinking now is the time to take Merit Health Wesley Women's Center up on its offer, Friday would be an appropriate day to make that appointment, as October 20th is National Mammography Day.