Could Mammograms Detect Heart Disease?

Mammograms are best known for helping to detect breast cancer, but there is another potential life-saving benefit of the screening.

The Doctors discuss how the test can also possibly help to identify heart disease and future heart attacks and strokes in women. According to a new study of women who underwent digital mammography, 70 percent of subjects who showed evidence of breast arterial calcification also had coronary arterial calcification, which is a marker for heart disease.

Surgical breast specialist Dr. Kristi Funk, who joins the panel, says when she sees calcification in a patient’s breast that often times they are also suffering from hypertension or diabetes.

Watch: What to Know Before: Undergoing a Mammogram

Dr. Funk says this study should help to save lives, explaining that approximately 292,000 women die from heart attacks yearly and that making the connection between mammogram results and possible heart disease could be a game changer for many women.

“You’re already getting your mammogram every year, so if you have a radiologist who is in tune to the fact that your healthcare is incomplete and you have a high-risk mammogram, [then possibly] they will look at the heart as well,” she says, noting that this connection will most likely be seen in women of a certain age.

Watch: Taking the Fear out of Mammograms

“The calcification does take time to develop, and they are really found in the majority of post-menopausal women,” she adds.

In addition to medications for dealing with heart disease, ER physician Dr. Travis Stork reminds the audience, “You have to pay attention to lifestyle, increase your activity, improve the foods you eat.”

Watch: How Heart Disease Develops

As always, please seek the advice of your physician or medical care provider if concerned about the connection between breast arterial calcification and possible heart disease.

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