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Treasure Valley radiologist highlights the importance of mammograms

"Oftentimes you can't feel breast cancer," Dr. Barbara White with St. Luke's said. It's one of the main reasons why mammograms are so vital.

NAMPA, Idaho — It's estimated that one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. 

Boise radiologist Dr. Barbara White, medical director of Breast Care Services for St. Luke's, said the only way to tell if you have breast cancer is through a mammogram.

"Oftentimes you can't feel breast cancer," White said. "Oftentimes women are surprised when we say we see something here and they say, 'But I don't feel anything.' And that's not surprising because most of the time you will not feel anything, and that's the power of the mammogram."

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White said the recommendation from health professionals is to start getting an annual mammogram at age 40. Talk to your doctor sooner, though, if you have a family history of breast cancer.

"We're able to tailor a screening protocol that would best work for you," White said. 

She said a mammogram only takes a few seconds, and images will be taken at that time. If something doesn't look quite right you'll be called back in.

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"That just means there's something we want to get a better look at," White explained. "It doesn't mean there's anything bad. In fact, the majority of the time it doesn't turn out to be anything or it's benign."

She said there's nothing to be scared of, and if a malignant mass is discovered during an annual mammogram the odds are it was caught early.

"That's the really amazing part about the mammograms," White said. "We have shown over the years that we can catch things early, and when we do the mortality, the treatments you have to undergo as a woman, is going to be significantly less."

White encourages patients to get a 3D mammogram as opposed to a 2D mammogram. She said radiologists can catch 40 percent more cancers with the 3D method.

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