A mammogram is a routine screening procedure that is often used to detect abnormal breast tissue, which could indicate cancer. Proper mammogram prep includes having a mammogram regularly (every year or two, as instructed by your doctor). Regular mammograms can significantly increase your chance for early detection of cancer. Early detection means better treatment and a great chance for a full recovery.
During the mammogram, a machine will take black-and-white, X-ray images of your breast tissue. The images are analyzed by your women’s health doctor to determine the presence of tumors or abnormal tissue.
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Age to Begin Breast Cancer Screenings
Ladies age 50 and older – now is the time to talk to your doctor about getting your first mammogram, if you haven’t already. Some organizations and doctors recommend mammogram prep as early as age 40, so you should talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.
If you are pregnant, suspect you may be pregnant, or are nursing, discuss this with your doctor and make sure the facility performing the mammogram knows as well.
Tips for the Best Mammogram Prep
- If possible, schedule mammograms at a facility that specializes in mammograms and women’s health care.
- Schedule at a time when your breasts won’t be tender. Avoid the week before your period, if possible.
- If possible, have your mammograms performed at the same facility every time.
- If you’ve had breast treatments at another facility or a written report from your doctor, bring copies of the records with you to the appointment.
- On the day of the mammogram, prep for the screening by wearing a top you can remove easily for the procedure. Do not wear deodorant or antiperspirant. Some of these products contain ingredients that impact the screening process.
- Take a few deep breaths before the procedure begins. Try to relax as much as possible.
What Happens at a Mammogram?
At a mammogram, you will undress from the waist up and put on a gown that the doctor’s office provides. With a technician, you will enter the screening area, and the tech should instruct you where to stand and how to position yourself for the machine.
The mammogram is performed by a specialized machine, which uses two plates to press your breast tissue flat for evaluation. There will be yourself and one technician in the room throughout the mammogram.
Talk to your doctor or the staff at your mammogram prep. They will be glad to answer any questions you have about what to expect.
What Can You Expect at a Mammogram?
Since this is mammogram prep for your first screening, here are a few things you can expect:
- The mammogram screening should take about 20 minutes total.
- A member of the medical staff will help position your breasts onto the mammogram plates.
- Most women have images of their breasts taken in two positions during a mammogram. However, women with large breasts or implants may require additional images in more positions for thorough analysis.
- To get a high-quality picture, your breasts must be as flat as possible. You may feel some discomfort when your breasts are pressed between the plates on the machine. Some women find it helpful to take an over-the-counter pain medication an hour before the mammogram. If the procedure becomes painful, tell the technician immediately.
What Happens After the Mammogram
The mammogram facility will send a full report of your screening results to your doctor, who should give you a call to discuss the results. If you haven’t heard from them within 10 days, give them a call to get an update on the status.
Mammogram clinics also must send you a simple summary of the results within 30 days if the results suggest cancer is present. This means, you may receive something in the mail before hearing from your doctor. If you receive this information, contact your doctor immediately.
Based on the results of the mammogram, your doctor may want to schedule additional testing. Screenings can’t diagnose all conditions and are not the only method of checking for cancer.
Mammogram Prep Leads to Mammogram Comfort
When you’re mentally and physically prepared for a new situation, you ease your anxiety about it. Think about it – are you a little less scared now that you know what to expect from your first mammogram?
It’s an important, minimally invasive procedure that helps save thousands of women’s lives every year. Talk to your doctor about options. And, spread the word to your lady friends: mammogram prep makes mammograms easier.