Make These Imaging Tests Part of your New Year’s Resolutions
When making New Year’s Resolutions, many people plan to lose weight, exercise more or stop smoking. While these are all worthwhile goals, they may be missing a few other resolutions that are easier to keep and that could be even more important for their health.
Depending on your sex, age, smoking status, and family and personal health history, you should consider putting one or more of the following imaging tests on your list of resolutions:
• A yearly mammogram (women 40 and older or at higher risk)
• DEXA for bone density (women 65 and older or at higher risk)
• Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) ultrasound for men over 65
• Peripheral Arteriovascular Disease (PAD) screening (those 65 and older or with risk factors)
Talk with your doctor first to determine which of these tests might be appropriate for you.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women today, striking one in seven women. While the appropriateness of mammograms for women younger than 50 has come under question, most medical experts continue to endorse them for women starting at age 40.
Women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors should get a mammogram even earlier. Based on their personal experiences as well as the best available data, our expert mammographers strongly support the value of mammography in detecting breast cancer at an early stage, when it can be treated with greater success.
The availability of digital mammography can make your experience faster and aids in detecting breast cancer. Digital mammography reduces the number of repeat procedures and streamlines the process because it eliminates darkroom processing of films. Images can also be sent to the most qualified specialist to interpret, allowing for very high quality readings.
Make an appointment for your annual mammogram today, and encourage your friends and loved ones to get theirs, too.
Bone Density Screening (DEXA)
A number of factors can put you at risk for having osteoporosis (low bone density), which in turn can lead to a greater risk of fracturing a bone.
Risk factors include:
• Being a woman, especially a post-menopausal woman
• Caucasian or Asian race
• Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis
• Being thin/having a small body frame
• Hormone levels, thyroid or parathyroid problems
• Low calcium intake, eating disorders, weight loss surgery
• Certain medications, such as steroids
• Smoking or excessive alcohol consumption
If you are a post-menopausal woman who is not taking estrogen replacement, especially if you smoke or are thin, or if you have any of the other risk factors described above, you should talk with your doctor about having your bone density tested. Many insurers cover the cost of this painless screening for appropriate patients.
DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry), also called bone densitometry, uses low strength X-rays to measure the density and mineral content of your bones and diagnose osteoporosis, which often has no symptoms. The amount of radiation used is less than one-tenth of what is used in a chest X-ray. DEXA can diagnose the disease at its earliest stages, which means you can begin receiving treatment to protect your bones sooner.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Ultrasound
An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) ultrasound is used to determine if an aneurysm (a weak spot in a blood vessel wall) is present in your aorta, the largest artery in the body and one that extends from the heart to the abdomen.
An ultrasound is a painless, non-invasive test that can detect an AAA before it ruptures and becomes an extremely serious condition. The screening is covered by Medicare for men aged 65 to 75 who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. You are at higher risk for AAA if you are a smoker, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, are sedentary, are obese and are a male 65 and older. Talk with your doctor about whether an AAA screening is right for you.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Screening
Peripheral arterial disease involves blockages of blood vessels in the legs and increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. You may experience leg pain or discomfort when walking or you may have no symptoms at all.
A fast, painless ultrasound test compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm to determine if you have this disease. New guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend that people who are age 65 and older, or those who are 50 and older with a history of diabetes or smoking, or who have leg pain when walking, be evaluated.
Remember to talk with your doctor to determine which imaging tests may be appropriate for you and to obtain a referral, if necessary.