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Women's Health Week Focuses on Mammograms

This week is National Women's Health Week. It's a time when women are encouraged to get screened for many illnesses. Doctors say one of the most important test for women is the mammogram.

Mammograms can save lives and should be a part of every woman's health routine. This, according to many health experts and organizations like the American Cancer Society. Lisa Kates, from Springfield, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.

"It was stage three," Kates said. "I opted for a bilateral vasectomy two weeks later and started chemotherapy two weeks after that. So, I went through eight rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation. I have a couple of more surgeries but am happy to be cancer-free."

Kates was diagnosed at the age of 27. At the time, only her grandma had breast cancer.

"Since I have been diagnosed, I've had an aunt and my mother has been diagnosed," Kates said. "So, my history is unfolding after my diagnosis."

Mammograms can be the best way to catch breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, regular mammograms can detect cancer up to three years before a lump can be felt.

"Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women," Dr. Lisa Wichterman, the head of breast imaging at Memorial Medical Center said. "If we catch breast cancer at an early stage, then we can have a much better chance of getting a cure."

Wichterman suggests women get their first mammogram at the age of 40.

"About 16 percent of all breast cancers occur in women in their 40s," Wichterman said.

Experts say you should definitely get a mammogram at an earlier age if breast cancer runs in your family. Wichterman also suggests women get checked for osteoporosis and go see their gynecologist for pap smears and physical exams.

There are three types of mammograms. Screen-film mammography, digital mammography and a new 3-D image. Although the 3-D x-ray uses a slightly higher dose of radiation than other mammogram methods, it's still considered safe. It can also give a more in-depth picture.