How To Get Ready For Your First Mammogram

Breast cancer is a major killer of women, but it doesn’t have to be. Many breast abnormalities are detected through yearly mammograms. If your doctor has told you that it is time to begin getting your mammograms, here is what you can do to be prepared for the test.

There have been all sorts of stories floating around about mammography. Some say it is painful while others may have been fine. Mammography has come a long way over the years as far as imaging goes, but some aspects of the process are constant.

Usually the first mammogram is done at age 40. This will be your baseline. Some women are tested earlier depending on their family history. After that, mammograms are recommended every 1 to 2 years unless otherwise directed by your physician.

This is how a mammogram works. The breast tissue is flattened as much as possible so that the x-ray device can get a clear view of all of the tissue. Digital mammography can usually detect abnormalities smaller than the ones we would be able to feel on a self-exam.

To get the breast tissue as flat as possible, the breast is placed between two plates. You will be asked to hold your arm up for better positioning. This process is definitely uncomfortable and may pinch for a few seconds, long enough to take the x-ray. Technicians usually try to be quick because they are aware of the comfort factor, or the lack thereof.

Before a mammogram, know that you will be asked to remove your top to perform the procedure. The technician will have to position your breast in the machine. Let them know if you have been having any problems like discharge from the nipples or tenderness in the breast that didn’t accompany your period. If you have breast implants or staples from a previous surgery, inform them of that too.

You can bring a friend along with you for support. Since the possibility of cancer is a scary situation, having someone to share the first experience is good. They can also keep you calm as you wait for the results of your x-ray.

Do not wear any deodorant. The metals in most deodorants can interfere with the x-ray machines. You can bring it with you to put on afterwards. If you already have it on, you will be given a damp wipe to remove it.

For patients with long hair, a barrette will keep your hair from getting in the way of the film. You will be filmed from the side and straight on. Your hair may get caught which is uncomfortable.

A mammogram could save your life, but that doesn’t mean that the process won’t be scary. Knowing what to expect before your first mammogram can make the experience less stressful.