HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Barbara Ford is being given a tour on some of the latest in breast cancer detection and treatment at Crestwood Women's Center.
She says consistent vigilance is important for her.
"It's so important in my case," Ford said. "My maternal grandmother had to have a mastectomy due to breast cancer, as well as other members of my immediate family, having a history of breast cancer."
And she follows a set routine.
"A self-breast exam - that's the first step you know, then the follow-up to that would be annual mammogram."
But not every woman follows Barbara's example, and testing experts say there is a reason for that.
"A lot of confusion," said Julie McCain. The radiation tech says she see it all the time in the practice where she works.
The reason for that confusion has to do with what many women are being inundated with in terms of when it's time to go get that mammogram. There are some studies that say 5 years, some that say 3.
But most doctors will tell you there is one rule of thumb that all women should use when it comes to a mammogram. McCain says it's simple,
"The bottom line is the American Cancer Society recommends annual mammogram for women age 40 and up, as long as they are in good health. That's where we find those early cancer, those non-invasive cancers is through mammogram," she said.
McCain adds that test can be critical.
"A typical breast cancer will double in size about twice a year. In round numbers. So if you have a cancer in your breast and it's sitting there and it's something that you can't feel and it's very small... and you wait 2 or 3 years for a mammogram, then you're allowing that cancer to double in size multiple times," McCain said.
She says those invasive cancers can also spread, leading to major surgery, major treatments and even death. So, she says, once a year is the only recommendation you should follow.