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Make your next mammogram a more pleasant experience


What’s the schedule?
What’s the schedule?

National Mammography Day (the third Friday in October each year) serves as a reminder to think about whether you’re due for a mammogram and to schedule one if you are. The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40 and older have a mammogram every year. Women with a family history of breast cancer may need earlier, more frequent screening and additional screening tests such as magnetic resonance imaging and should check with their doctors.

Even though screening mammograms save lives, many women delay or simply don’t bother getting them on the recommended schedule. Reasons for reluctance include fear of discomfort and the “nuisance factor.” These tips will make getting a mammogram more agreeable:

Know what to expect.

If you’ve never had a mammogram, knowing what to expect will help relieve any anxiety. You stand in front of a special X-ray machine. A technologist lifts each breast and places it on a platform. The breast is gradually pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate. Some pressure is needed for a few seconds to make sure the X-ray image shows as much of the breast as possible. Flattening the breast also lowers the X-ray dose.

Schedule your mammogram when your breasts will be least tender.

Studies show that most women don’t find mammograms painful for the short time needed to take the picture. However, to minimize discomfort, avoid scheduling your exam for the week before your period, when your breasts are most tender.

If you have sensitive breasts, consider taking a mild, over-the-counter pain reliever an hour before your mammogram. This won’t affect the mammogram and will help to minimize any discomfort.

Have the necessary information ready.

The mammography facility may ask for certain information, depending on whether or not you’ve used that facility in the past. Making a list to bring with you will save you from having to list dates and phone numbers from memory. Among the information you may need:

  • name, address and phone number of any facility where you’ve had a mammogram
  • name, address and phone number of your doctor
  • the date your last period began or when menopause began
  • the dates of any biopsies or other breast treatments you’ve had

Wear a two-piece outfit to the facility.

This way, you’ll have to remove only your top.

Don’t use deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or near the breasts on that day.

These products can show up on the X-ray picture. If they interfere with the radiologist’s ability to read the mammogram, you may have to have another exam.

If you can’t remain perfectly still, let the technician know.

Any movement will blur the image, and the mammogram will have to be repeated.

If you’ve had mammograms at other facilities, ask those facilities to release them to you and bring them with you.

This will allow the radiologist to compare your new mammogram to the earlier ones to check for changes.

Breast cancer that’s detected early, before there’s evidence of any cancer spread, has a five-year survival rate of 98 percent. Make your commitment to early detection today by scheduling a mammogram, if you’re due, and by encouraging your friends to do the same.

Know what to expect.

Schedule your mammogram when your breasts will be least tender.

Have the necessary information ready.

Wear a two-piece outfit to the facility.

Don’t use deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or near the breasts on that day.

If you can’t remain perfectly still, let the technician know.

If you’ve had mammograms at other facilities, ask those facilities to release them to you and bring them with you.