Knowing how to prepare for a mammogram is crucial for the best experience possible. A mammogram is one of the best tools available for early detection of breast cancer. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women in the United States. Annual mammograms should be part of every woman’s health regimen.
Preparing For Your Mammogram
Mammograms are performed using a safe, low-dose x-ray machine designed to take images of your breast tissue. The mammography x-ray machine is equipped with flat surfaces called compression paddles. The compression paddles compress each breast so that all of your breast tissue can be x-rayed. During that time, you need to remain still so that the images are clear and you will not have to do it over.
Having a mammogram done is easy, but there are a few things you will need to do to make sure yours goes smoothly:
Schedule Your Mammogram When Breast Tenderness Will Be Low
To enable the x-ray machine to capture an accurate image of your breast tissue, your breast tissue needs to be spread out as much as possible, which is the function of the compression paddles. The x-ray technician will position you in such a way that the compression paddles can compress your breasts and flatten them without too much discomfort.
One way that you can minimize the discomfort is to schedule your mammogram at a time when you are not experiencing unusual tenderness or soreness in your breasts due to the onset of your menstrual cycle. If possible, you can try to reschedule your appointment to another time of the month. Usually, the week following your menstrual cycle is a good choice.
Bring Previous Mammogram Images
If you are going to have your mammogram performed in a new facility, they will probably ask you to provide your prior mammograms. Your radiologist will want to compare them with your new images. You can arrange to have them sent by your doctor or you can request to have them placed on a CD to bring with you to your appointment.
Take A Mild Pain Reliever Before Your Mammogram
Some women find that taking an aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen about an hour before the mammogram helps with the discomfort of the mammogram.
Avoid Using Any Deodorant Or Body Lotions
On the day of your mammogram do not apply any deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams or perfumes under your arms or on your breasts. Those products often contain metallic particles which your mammogram can detect and cause false readings. You may have to redo the mammogram in such a case.
You will be asked to remove any jewelry such as necklaces and earrings for the mammogram. You will have to leave these items in a secure location along with any other valuables you bring into the exam room. To minimize risk of loss, it may be better to not wear any jewelry into the facility.
You will also have to remove your clothing from the waist up for the mammogram. You will be given a hospital gown to cover up until you are in the x-ray room. Most women choose to wear a two piece outfit to the mammogram so that they only have to remove their top and bra; you can remain dressed from the waist down.
Budget Enough Time
The mammogram itself only takes a few minutes to complete; however, some facilities are very busy and you may have to wait a while before they are ready for you. Also, after your x-ray, you will have to wait until the technician determines that the images are clear and of sufficient quality for the radiologist. If not, you will have to have one or more images re-done before you leave. In most cases, the entire process can be completed in an hour or less.
Radiologist Will Send Written Report To Your Doctor
Do not expect to learn the results at the time of your mammogram. The x-ray images of your breast tissue will be analyzed by a radiologist. The radiologist will send a written report of the analysis and any findings to your doctor. In analyzing the images, the radiologist will look for any evidence of cancer or abnormal non-cancerous tissue. Those findings usually require further testing and examination. Most abnormal findings on mammograms are not cancer.
Mammogram facilities are required by law to send your results within 30 days to you, although it usually takes one or two weeks. Ask the technicians at your facility when you can expect to learn your results.
Schedule An Appointment With Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness
Mammograms are an important, non-invasive tool for identifying changes in your breast tissue and early detection of cancer. Regular mammograms are critically important to women’s health, and an annual mammogram is the best practice for most women over age 40. To schedule your mammogram or to discuss any questions or concerns you have about them, contact the specialists at Raleigh Gynecology and Wellness.