So, you have your first mammography appointment coming up and you don’t know what to expect. Should you take the day off of work? What should you wear? Do you have any questions for your doctor? Do you really need to get checked?
What is mammography?
- Mammography is the primary tool used to screen for breast cancer and it is the most effective way of reducing breast cancer mortality. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chances are for successful treatment!
When should I schedule my first mammogram?
- The American Cancer Society recommends women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year and women 55 and older may switch to getting a mammogram every two years. However, it is never too early to start asking your physician questions.
- When the time comes, keep in mind it’s best to schedule your mammogram for the week after your menstrual period. This will reduce the level of discomfort you’ll feel on the day of your exam because your breasts won’t be tender or swollen. It will also provide a clearer picture for your doctor.
The morning of your mammogram, don’t forget these tips:
- Wear a two-piece comfortable outfit like sweatpants and a t-shirt because you will have to undress above the waist to get a mammogram.
- Avoid applying any deodorant, antiperspirant, powder, lotion or ointment on or around your chest. These products can appear as white spots on the x-ray.
At your mammogram exam:
- The exam takes about twenty minutes to complete.
- Once you’re with a technologist, they will ask you to stand facing the mammography machine, and then place one breast at a time on a flat surface. The breast is then compressed for a few seconds while an x-ray picture is taken. The breast is repositioned and compressed again to take another view.
- There will be discomfort for some women and men from flattening the breast tissue. However, positioning the breast like so provides a clearer view of the breast and lessens the amount of radiation needed to take an x-ray picture.
- Do not hesitate to ask your technologist questions about the process. The more you know, the more comfortable you’ll feel about getting the exam.
After your mammogram exam:
- If you don’t hear from your health care provider within ten days, contact your physician’s office or the facility where the mammogram was done.
Now you have the know-hows to confidently march into your first mammogram exam. This month, we invite you to share the knowledge to your loved ones to raise awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.