What To Know Before You Get A Mammogram
I wanted to spread awareness with this post and dispel a lot of anxiety that seems to come with getting your first mammogram. Before my first, I wondered if it hurt, how much time did it take, what do I need to do to prepare..? Having now had, at the age of 49, many mammograms over the years, I’m writing this post from my past experiences. I hope this helps you feel at ease to schedule your mammogram and get the screening you need that might save your life!
1 in 8 women in the United States, or 12%, will develop breast cancer over the course of a lifetime
*Above statement is from BreastCancer.org
*I am not in the medical field in any way. All opinions are my own and you should speak to your Doctor about any concerns you might have.
What Age Should I start?
When I got my first mammogram 35 was the age to get your baseline images. If that image is clear, you are good with manual exams for 5 years. Then at 40, you have another and at 45, the screening starts yearly. However, the guidelines have changed to age 40 for the baseline now. See Here for the American Cancer Society age details. I strongly believe if I were 35 again, I would schedule my first appointment. For myself, talking with the technicians at my exams and learning about the number of women who get breast cancer before 40 only to discover it when it’s too late is my reasoning.
Please talk about your timing with your doctor and do your own research to come to your own age to start.
What Is A Baseline Image?
Reading a mammogram film is a specialized skill a radiologist learns over time. The radiologist will read your current film and also compare it to previous years. Your baseline film is your first image with hopefully all healthy breast tissue. Because of this, it is ideal to visit the same center each time. If you move or cannot because of insurance reasons, the old center can transfer the images to your new center.
How Do I Prepare?
Prep is minimal and easy. You need to contact your insurance carrier for confirmed coverage and cost if any. Most of the time the center will do this for you. Also if you have implants, you need to let the center know when you book your appointment. I had to go to a different center because the first one was not equipped to scan breasts with implants.
On the day of your appointment wear two pieces of clothing since you only undress from the waist up. You will also be asked to wipe off any deodorant you may have on with special wipes. This is because the aluminum can alter the image. That’s it, put on your white robe and your nurse will guide you through the process.
Does It Hurt?
This was my biggest worry about screening. No, there is no pain involved. I am the biggest baby with pain, I would totally let you in on it if there was any pain! Botox, fillers, curling iron burns, monthly cramps, childbirth are all painful…a mammogram isn’t. You feel pressure at all.
Your nurse will step up to the machine with you and ask you to take one arm out of your robe. She will then position your arms around the machine, tell you where to stand and position your breast on a plastic board. Once she is good with the position, another plastic board then compresses down on top of your breast to flatten it. The nurse then steps back in front of the computer monitors, tells you not to move (I usually hold my breath to be extra still) and takes the image. Done. Kinda like a dental x-ray. There are about 3 different angled images on each breast. I think I have one more because of implants though.
How Long Does It Take?
The paperwork in the waiting room takes longer than the image process 🙂 Usually under 10 min.
What If I Get Called In For A Recheck?
DON’T PANIC! I’ve been called back once and I know the fear of what if… Most likely your radiologist just wants a different view of the breast tissue. However, if you’re starting your screening early in age, you are so much more likely to catch early signs of breast cancer that are treatable!
I really hope the post helps alleviate any fear or stress you might have with getting your breast screened. Cancer is a fact of life but we can be proactive and protect ourselves with proper monthly self-exams and mammograms.
Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions below about the process!
Thanks for reading!
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