Mammograms & Heart Disease

You’ve heard the benefits of mammograms in the fight against breast cancer.  Now new research suggests the test could also help diagnose heart disease.  Mammograms can show the buildup of calcium in the arteries of the breast, called breast arterial calcification, or BAC.

According to an article by the American Heart Association, “early studies have found BAC’s presence appears to signal elevated risk for heart attack, stroke” and other heart issues.

Research in the past has suggested that BAC is associated with some types of heart disease, according to TMC radiologist Kelly Overman, MD, but researchers are still looking into the strength and significance of the connection.

“The biggest value of mammograms possibly helping diagnose heart disease is being able to identify patients, using testing we’re already doing, who may not have the normal risk factors such as high cholesterol.  Identifying patients at risk of heart disease can help providers and patients to begin lifestyle modifications or medicines sooner,” says Dr. Overman.

Dr. Overman says when looking at a mammogram, arterial calcifications show up as two white lines associated with a blood vessel (think train or tram-tracks).  While providers know BAC is not a sign of breast cancer, they can put the presence of BAC in the report that the provider who ordered the mammogram will read.  Then that provider can talk to the patient about heart disease prevention measures, or more specific heart disease testing.

To schedule a mammogram, please call: 816-404-0690

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