The mammogram involves the use of an x-ray machine to find breast cancer as early as possible. This screening tool allows the diagnosis to be made at an early stage, even before a cancerous tumor is felt. However, your first mammogram can create some anxiety, which is quite normal. Educating yourself about what the exam involves may help the process go more smoothly. Here some important things you should know about getting a mammogram:
- Discuss any recent changes or problems in your breasts with your healthcare provider before getting the mammogram. Also discuss any medical history that could affect your breast cancer risk-such as surgery, hormone use, breast cancer in your family, or if you’ve had breast cancer before.
- If you have a choice, use a facility that specializes in mammograms and does many mammograms a day. Try to go to the same facility every time you want this test, as it is easy to compare your mammograms from year to year and get a proper idea of your condition.
- Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen before your mammogram can reduce discomfort. Talk to your physician about this first.
- If possible schedule your mammogram when your breasts are not tender or swollen (the week just before your period). This can reduce discomfort and also provide good pictures.
- On the day of exam, don’t use any deodorant, lotion, or antiperspirant on the upper part of the body, as it might result in unclear images.
- You would have to remove your top and bra for the mammogram. Wear a skirt or pants so that undressing above the waist is easy. The facility will give you a wrap to use.
- The whole procedure takes about 20 minutes and the actual breast compression lasts only a few seconds.
- Between your regular mammograms, do a self-exam at the end of each menstrual period. If you notice a change, you can be proactive about it.
- Consult with your physician to determine how often you should get a mammogram.
Most abnormalities found during a mammogram are not cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 10 women who have a mammogram will require an additional mammography or ultrasound screening to investigate any suspicions.