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What to Expect from Your First Mammogram

If you are going for your first mammogram, it’s likely that you have all sorts of questions and worries. While it can be a stressful experience, the main reason why a mammogram is performed is to detect breast cancer as early as possible.
Knowing how to prepare for your mammogram and what to expect can put your mind at ease, making the whole experience less daunting. Here is all you need to know.

Why Have a Mammogram?

If you have a mammogram scheduled, it’s incredibly important not to put it off. While it can be all too easy to not turn up for your procedure, a mammogram is one of the best ways to detect breast cancer. This is because a mammogram uses low-dose x-rays that create an image of your breast tissue. It can then detect small lumps that you are unable to feel yourself.
It’s recommended to get your first mammogram at age 40 and then have a mammogram each year onwards. If you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, make sure to let your doctor know as they can give you more advice on when you should begin having mammograms. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your health.

Preparing for Your Mammogram

You can make your mammogram experience more comfortable and stress-free when you know what to expect. If you have not started the menopause yet, make sure to book your mammogram for the week ahead of your menstrual period. This is because your breasts will be less tender. As you are not allowed to wear deodorant, lotion, ointment or powder on your chest area, it’s best to schedule your mammogram in the daytime. If you wear any of these items, it can cause problems with your mammogram and issues with the x-ray.
Knowing what to wear for your mammogram can make the procedure go as smoothly as possible. Try and aim for a two-piece outfit so you only need to take off your top. The person who is conducting the mammogram will provide you with a gown to put on. Also, bring along the name, phone number and address of the doctor who scheduled the mammogram. This is because once the procedure is complete, the facility will send a report to them.

Provide Information

Before you go in for your mammogram, there are certain things that you can do to ensure the procedure is as accurate as possible. If you have noticed any problems or changes in your breast, don’t hesitate to let the mammography technologist know who is performing the mammogram. You should also let them know about any medical history that they need to be aware of, such as surgery, breast cancer in your family or if you have had breast cancer in the past.
Before you get any type of imaging test, it’s best to let your technologist know if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Being open and honest can make a huge difference and put your mind at ease. You will want your mammogram to be as accurate as can be, so make sure to provide any information you have when asked for it.

Length of Procedure

One of the main worries that many women have before going for a mammogram is how long the procedure will take. You will be happy to know that the entire procedure only takes 30 minutes, with each of your breasts being compressed for roughly 20 to 30 seconds. While the compression stage can feel uncomfortable, it’s an incredibly important part of the procedure. Compression allows your breast tissue to flatten and spread which gives a clear view of the breast, and helps to reduce the amount of radiation to create an image.

Diagnostic Mammogram

If you have any breast symptoms, or there have been noticeable changes on your screening mammogram, you will need to have a diagnostic mammogram. During this procedure, the technologist can look for any changes that were present on the screening mammogram. The images are checked and examined by the radiologist while you are there so that more photos can be taken if necessary. In some instances, magnification views or spot views are used to closely focus on a small area to identify what the problem is. 

Getting Your Results

Once your mammogram is over, it’s expected that you will receive your results within 10 days. If you do not hear back from your health care provider, do not assume that your procedure was normal. It’s best to call up your provider or the facility where you had your mammogram.
A full detailed report of your results will be sent over to your health care provider. Mammography clinics are also required to mail women with an account of their mammogram results as soon as possible. If the results indicate that cancer is present, this may mean that you receive the results before your health care provider contacts you. You can also ask for a full written mammogram report and summary if you so wish.

Don’t Panic

If you are worried about the mammogram procedure, try and remember that you’re not alone. Your health should be your number one priority, so having regular mammograms each year can put your mind at ease and nip any problems in the bud as early as possible. It’s important to remember that for every 1,000 mammograms performed, only 2 to 4 screenings result in a diagnosis of breast cancer. What’s more, ultrasounds and 3D mammograms are becoming frequently popular as they are better forms of screening. You can read more here about how they work and what the differences are.
It’s only natural to have worries and concerns, so instead of bottling up your thoughts, let your doctor know how you are feeling. You may be able to get some useful advice and techniques that you can use to help you feel more relaxed before your mammogram. 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, therefore, detecting any signs in the early stages is incredibly important.


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