Breast cancer claims the lives of thousands of women each year. The best way to diagnose breast cancer early, when it is easiest to treat, is with regular mammograms. But sadly, many women have heard false myths that keep them from getting mammograms as they should. Here's a look at four false myths that you should not let get between you and this important test.

1. You don't really need a mammogram if you don't have a family history of breast cancer.

You may have heard that there is a genetic link for breast cancer. This is true. Women with a family history of breast cancer are more likely to contract the disease than those without a family history. However, there are still many, many women who develop breast cancer despite having no family history. You should absolutely go in for annual mammograms after the age of 40, even if nobody in your family has ever had breast cancer before. 

2. You can just as easily detect breast cancer with a self breast exam as with a mammogram.

If you are a woman who does her self breast exam regularly, then congratulations. This is another important step towards ensuring breast cancer does not go undetected. However, breast self exams are not as thorough as a mammogram. A mammogram may identify small lumps and bumps that you pass over in a breast self exam. So, keep doing your breast exams once a month -- but do not use them as a substitute for a mammogram.

3. A mammogram is painful.

Many women put off getting their first mammogram because they fear it will be painful. Surely, getting a mammogram is not the most comfortable thing you'll ever experience, but it should not cause you overt pain, either. To minimize your discomfort, schedule your mammogram for about a week after your period. This tends to be when your breast tissue is less sensitive. Any discomfort you do feel will only last a few minutes.

4. Mammograms expose you to too much radiation to be safe.

You may remember years ago when doctors were very careful not to administer extra x-rays for fear of exposing you to too much radiation. While doctors are still careful not to over-expose patients to radiation, today's x-rays -- including mammograms -- are very safe. The amount of radiation you are exposed to is actually very small and should not cause any problems as long as your x-ray tech is well-trained and careful. You are putting yourself at a far greater risk by avoiding mammograms.

Contact a clinic, like Hudson Valley Imaging, for more help.