Getting a group of women together for a combined holiday shopping trip and annual mammogram appointment may reduce stress for some women when it comes to having the life-saving screening test, said a breast imaging specialist from the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine.
"A majority of women have heightened anxiety about having their annual mammograms," said Dr. Karla Sepulveda, assistant professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Imaging Center at BCM. "We cannot let that anxiety deter them from having their recommended mammogram – it saves lives. Mammograms catch the cancer in early stages, making it easier for us to treat the cancer and potentially cure it."
Sepulveda said gathering a group of women together can make the annual mammogram experience less stressful and timely and create a system of support.
Keeps women diligent
"The holidays are a perfect time to establish this gathering," Sepulveda said.
"Doing it around the same time every year can serve as a reminder – time for the holidays and time for my mammogram. We have seen women in the clinic that make this one big day of fun," said Sepulveda. "They shop, go to lunch and have their mammograms. They look forward to it every year.
Creates support system
Having your mammograms done in groups can create a support system as well, Sepulveda said.
"If we do find something abnormal with their mammogram, it helps for the women not to be alone," said Sepulveda. "They need positive support from other women."
Breast cancer these days can be very manageable if caught early, she said. If women continue to come back every year, the chance of an abnormal mammogram detecting an advanced stage breast cancer is decreased.
Reemphasizing screening recommendations
Beginning at age 40, all women with an average risk should be screened annually. Women with strong family history of breast cancer or identified genetic mutation may need to be screened earlier, Sepulveda said. "It's important to discuss your own medical and family history with your physician."
It's also important for women to know what paperwork they will need to bring. It's best to call in advance to set up an appointment to ensure all women in the group can come in around the same time.
"We want to get these women in and out quickly so they can enjoy their day," said Sepulveda. "This shouldn't be an unpleasant experience, but an opportunity for women to come together in a fun way with a healthy benefit. We want women to come back every year."