Breast cancer screening, mammography

Carol Bergen, Clinical Manager, Piper Breast Center, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute, Abbott Northwestern Hospital

When it comes to breast cancer screening, don’t skip a year. If you’re a woman 40 years or older, get a clinical breast exam and mammogram annually.

This message was delivered by Carol Bergen, clinical manager of the Piper Breast Center® of the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, at a January 26 women’s wellness seminar hosted by Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin.  She was instrumental in the planning and development of the Center when it opened 17 years ago and previously worked at a nurse leader in oncology arenas.

Bergen advised that the United States Preventive Services Task Force created a lot of confusion and controversy when it announced its recommendation in November 2009 that women 50 and older only need to get a mammogram every other year and that women in their 40s may not need them pending discussions with their healthcare providers.

Bergen guided the group of nearly 100 women at the seminar through the pro’s and con’s of the mammography controversy.

“While it’s not perfect and doesn’t detect every type of breast cancer, mammography is the best screening tool we have,” Bergen said. “The dose of radiation for a mammogram is very small and similar to the amount of radiation exposure in taking a flight from the east coast to the west coast and back again.”

Research studies have shown a dramatic decline in deaths from breast cancer of about 30 percent from 1989 to 2007 due to a combination of factors but primarily due to mammography screening and improved treatment. If this trend continues, it’s predicted that the decline in breast cancer deaths may rise to about 50 percent by 2015.

“Mammography screening is really making a difference,” Bergen added. “We’re now catching breast cancer at stage 0 instead of stages 3 and 4. When breast cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, we are seeing a cure rate of 97 to 98 percent.”

Bergen said that the Piper Breast Center endorses the American Cancer Society breast cancer screening guidelines for women:

  • Starting at age 20, begin doing a breast self-exam monthly.
  • From ages 20 to 40, have a clinical breast exam every three years. 
  • Starting at age 40, have a clinical breast exam and a mammogram annually and continue this as long as a woman is in good health.


Bergen presented an overview of the diagnostic and treatment services and technological advances available to breast cancer patients today. She also advised on risk factors and breast changes to watch for that can signal the presence of cancer.

After touring the hospital in Aitkin and meeting with nurses and healthcare professionals who coordinate services through the Cuyuna Riverwood Breast Health Alliance earlier in the day, Bergen advised seminar participants:

“For excellent breast cancer care, you don’t have to come to a larger facility like the Piper Breast Center. You have wonderful care right here.”

 Door prize winners were Paulette Anderson, who won a large gift basket filled with comfort items, and Deb Otto, who received a $20 gift certificate for a Circles of Hope bracelet, sold by Evie Ladd of Palisade to raise money locally for the fight against cancer. She donated 30 percent of the bracelet sales at the seminar to Riverwood.