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Time for breast cancer check

Dr. Hugh Smith (left), Kelly Fitzsimmons and Peggy Zillgitt in the radiology department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing pose near the medical center’s new tomosynthesis device, a 3-D imaging machine used to detect breast cancer. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun)1 / 2
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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and health officials are calling on women to have a screening mammogram to detect the disease that kills 40,000 people in the U.S. each year.

Women age 40 and older are recommended to have a mammogram every year, while women in their 20s and 30s should be checked during regular health exams every three years, according to the American Cancer Society.

Starting this month at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, patients will be able to get screened with a new 3-D imaging device in addition to a traditional mammogram.

The tomosynthesis device uses X-rays to take 15 images of the breast from different angles. The pictures are then combined to show tissue layers in 1 mm slices, helping prevent tissues from obscuring cancer and reducing false-positive results, according to a Mayo Clinic Health System news release.

“This type of screening will especially benefit patients with dense breasts or those with high risk factors,” said Dr. Hugh Smith, a radiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, in the release.

An estimated 200,000 women get breast cancer yearly in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the second most common cancer among American women behind skin cancer.

Signs of breast cancer can be difficult to detect or nonexistent, though some indicators include change in size or shape of the breast, pain, nipple discharge other than milk and lumps in the breast or underarm.

Screening does not prevent breast cancer, but the disease is more easily treated if found early.

A family history of breast cancer puts women at a higher risk, though most women who get breast cancer have no family history and known risk factors, the CDC says.

Ways to help lower the risk of breast cancer include keeping a healthy weight, regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake and breastfeeding.

In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the radiology department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing will offer Saturday hours 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 17. The clinic’s mobile mammography truck will also have extended hours Oct. 23 in Zumbrota and Nov. 6 in Ellsworth.

For more information or to make an appointment, visit

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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