While October may be synonymous with spooky creatures and pumpkin-flavored goodies, it’s also a month for women to take control of their health.

As a way to encourage more people to come in for routine mammograms, and in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Desert Regional Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center will be offering extended hours on Mondays in October for Mammo Mondays.

Hours of operation

The cancer center will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday in October. The mammograms are not free, but most insurance will cover them, and the Desert Cancer Foundation also has assistance programs available to help if someone is uninsured.

The center will also host a Saturday clinic from 8 a.m. to noon on Oct. 28.

Who should get screened?

There are new recommendations as to when people should start getting mammograms.

In May, the United States Preventive Services Task Force lowered the age at which women should start screening from 50 to 40 years old. The age was lowered because more women in their 40s are being diagnosed with breast cancer, and Black women, who are 40% more likely to die from it than white women, are more likely to be diagnosed in their 40s and with more aggressive forms of the cancer, according to the task force.

The American Cancer Society recommends women ages 40 to 44 get mammograms every year if they choose, and every year between the ages of 45 to 54. Screenings can be switched to every other year for women ages 55 and older.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, making up about 30% of all new female cancers each year. The American Cancer Society estimates 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women this year.

What happens during a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast.

During a mammogram, a technologist will place a woman’s breast on a plastic plate, while another plate will firmly press the breast from above. The plates will flatten the breast to hold it still while the X-ray is being taken.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a few tips for getting a mammogram:

  • Try not to have your mammogram the week before you get your period or during your period as breasts may be tender or swollen
  • On the day of your mammogram, don’t wear deodorant, perfume or powder. These products can show up as white spots on the X-ray
  • Some women prefer to wear a top with a skirt or pants, instead of a dress. You will need to undress from your waist up for the mammogram

How to schedule an appointment

If you would like to schedule a mammogram for Mammo Mondays – or anytime – call the Comprehensive Cancer Center at 760-416-4700 or go to www.DesertCareNetwork.com/breast

Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at ema.sasic@desertsun.com or on Twitter @ema_sasic.