Centegra: Get checked, tell your friends

All your friends are doing it.

That's the sentiment behind a new Centegra Health System program that encourages women ages 40 and older to have mammograms. It's all about peer pressure. In a good way.

Basically, when a woman schedules a mammogram through centegra.org, she's asked to send email reminders to two of her closest friends suggesting they do the same, said Dr. Joanna Rossi, director of breast imaging with Centegra Health System.

Through the program, called U+2, the women receive a voucher to redeem for a free eye pillow by taking part. 

The goal is to increase the number of women ages 40 and older having annual mammograms, as recommended by the American College of Radiology and the American Cancer Society, Rossi said.

"You want to find breast cancer at its earliest stages so it's actually more treatable, and you have less of a chance of having issues down the road," she said. 

The email addresses of the friends will not be shared through the online program at centegra.org/u2, she said.

One out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

Statistics also show that McHenry County is the highest among the collar counties when it comes to late stage breast cancer diagnosis, said Michelle Green, senior public relations coordinator for Centegra.

Also to encourage mammograms, Centegra sponsors Mammo Monday events in which women are encouraged to bring their friends and family to screenings, which also can include bone density tests, free expert bra fittings and light snacks. 

The Centegra Gavers Breast Cancer Center – Crystal Lake offers tomosynthesis, also known as 3-D breast imaging. These tests are ideal for women with dense breasts, capturing multiple images of the breast at different angles. 

Some women might avoid having mammograms altogether because they're busy, Rossi said. Or perhaps they avoid it because they feel the tests are uncomfortable, she said.

"There is some squeezing of the breast involved," she said. "But here at Centegra, we actually use this cushion or pad that goes on the machine, which doesn't necessarily mean the breasts will be pressed less, but it will certainly increase comfort during the procedure."

Others remain confused as to whether it's necessary to have annual exams after the age of 40, she said. Past reports by other groups have recommended the exams aren't necessary until older ages, but Rossi stressed that they are needed upon turning 40.

Still, the different recommendations might continue to confuse generations. Through programs, such as U+2, Centegra works to clear up that confusion, Rossi said.

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