Even though screening mammograms save lives, many women delay or simply don’t bother getting them on the recommended schedule. Reasons for reluctance include fear of discomfort and the “nuisance factor.” These tips will make getting a mammogram more agreeable:
If you’ve never had a mammogram, knowing what to expect will help relieve any anxiety. You stand in front of a special X-ray machine. A technologist lifts each breast and places it on a platform. The breast is gradually pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate. Some pressure is needed for a few seconds to make sure the X-ray image shows as much of the breast as possible. Flattening the breast also lowers the X-ray dose.
Studies show that most women don’t find mammograms painful for the short time needed to take the picture. However, to minimize discomfort, avoid scheduling your exam for the week before your period, when your breasts are most tender.
If you have sensitive breasts, consider taking a mild, over-the-counter pain reliever an hour before your mammogram. This won’t affect the mammogram and will help to minimize any discomfort.
The mammography facility may ask for certain information, depending on whether or not you’ve used that facility in the past. Making a list to bring with you will save you from having to list dates and phone numbers from memory. Among the information you may need:
- name, address and phone number of any facility where you’ve had a mammogram
- name, address and phone number of your doctor
- the date your last period began or when menopause began
- the dates of any biopsies or other breast treatments you’ve had
This way, you’ll have to remove only your top.
These products can show up on the X-ray picture. If they interfere with the radiologist’s ability to read the mammogram, you may have to have another exam.
Any movement will blur the image, and the mammogram will have to be repeated.
This will allow the radiologist to compare your new mammogram to the earlier ones to check for changes.
Breast cancer that’s detected early, before there’s evidence of any cancer spread, has a five-year survival rate of 98 percent. Make your commitment to early detection today by scheduling a mammogram, if you’re due, and by encouraging your friends to do the same.