How To Prepare For a Mammogram

Mar 17, 2021
How To Prepare For a Mammogram
While mammograms are a yearly procedure that we recommend for our patients that are in their 40's and beyond, there can still be so much mystery in what a mammogram is, how to prepare for one, and what to expect after the experience itself.

While mammograms are a yearly procedure that we recommend for our patients that are in their 40's and beyond, there can still be so much mystery in what a mammogram is, how to prepare for one, and what to expect after the experience itself. Today, we are dedicating this blog to everything you need to know about the realities of a mammogram inside and out. We will also be talking about the before, during, and after process of getting one! 

Hello warriors! Welcome back to the Breast Place Blog! It has been a very exciting few weeks with a visit from our friend Amanda Syfriend, making appearances at the #pinkintherink hockey game with the South Carolina Stingrays, and supporting an incredible local charity called Share our Suzy. Share our Suzy, for our readers new to the charity, helps local breast cancer patients pay for utility bills, groceries, wigs, childcare, and much more. We are constantly fighting for, supporting, and educating those who are fighting and those who could one day fight if we don't find a cure fast enough. This is one of the many reasons why we invest our time and efforts into our social media pages and our blog, we want to share and spread awareness, support our community, and do everything we can to help. We appreciate all of our readers, followers, and supporters for their love and kindness they've shown to each of these platforms, and we applaud you for helping us achieve these goals, spread our message, and help lift up our warriors and fighters. With a whole year under our belts since the pandemic has started, we are coming out exhausted in more ways than one. There is still so much unknown and we hope that as time goes on, we continue to see a light at the end of the tunnel together. Let's continue to stay safe and make safe choices for our loved ones. 

Our last few blogs have been dedicated to our products and services that you can find when you visit our offices, their amazing results, and the power they can give to your self-esteem and self-confidence. Today, we are going to be circling back and talking directly about services related to breast cancer and the prevention of it. Today, we are going to be talking about mammograms. While they should become part of your regular yearly checkups once you're over the age of 40, there are still so many people who aren't getting them and so many who are unaware and unsure about what the whole process entails. Today, we are going to continue to use this platform as a tool for education to clear up any questions and confusion about mammograms, and to persuade you to get them if you're not already doing so.

  • What Is A Mammogram?

What comes to mind when you think about what a mammogram is? Just the squashing of your breasts between a piece of machinery to see if you have any signs of breast cancer? While that might be one way to think about it, there is so much more to it than that, and believe us it is worth your time and the compression you'll experience on your breasts. We've talked about mammogram benefits in our blogs over the last few years and why you begin getting them once you turn 40. One of the reasons why women under the age of 40 don't get them is that the tissue in your breasts is too firm to be penetrated with the X-ray that is used in the procedure itself. This is why it can be so difficult to detect breast cancer in women 40 and young. Once you hit 40 and begin to go through menopause, your breast tissue becomes less dense and not as firm, allowing the X-ray to penetrate the breast better. First and foremost, it is very important to remember that mammograms are a very important role in early breast cancer detection to help find it sooner, treat it faster, and help to lower the number of fatalities due to breast cancer.

Mammograms are done both for screening and diagnostic purposes. Once your doctor begins to advise you to start getting them, usually around the time you turn 40, these mammograms are used to detect any changes in the breast in women who have shown no previous signs or symptoms of cancer. This can help detect cancer before clinical signs begin. A diagnostic mammogram is used to investigate anything unusual that has appeared in a woman's breast including lumps, pain, changes in skin appearance, and more. This mammogram will include more images than a normal screening. According to the American Cancer Society, women with a normal risk of cancer should receive a mammogram every year starting at age 45 until age 54, while the Preventative Services Task Force recommends screening every two years, starting at age 50 until 74. Those with a higher risk of breast cancer will benefit from starting mammograms sooner, and it is best to speak to your doctor about when best to begin your mammogram process. During the mammogram itself, a patient's breasts will be compressed between two separate hard surfaces to help spread out the breast tissue. This will help the X-ray capture images of the breasts. Once the breasts have been compressed, an X-ray takes black and white photos of the breasts that will then be examined by your doctor for any signs of abnormalities or cancer. 

  • Tips for Getting a Mammogram

You're scheduled for your first mammogram, and you know the basics of what it is and what's going to happen. What are some other things to keep in mind to make it a comfortable experience? 

  • Don't be afraid about getting a mammogram. According to the American Cancer Society, only 2 to 4 in 1000 screenings leads to a diagnosis. The more you know, the better you can prevent it! 
  • Choose a facility that frequently or only does mammograms, and once you begin going to a facility keep going to the same one. if you have any questions, we can help with that! 
  • Make sure to dress comfortably. It is recommended to wear pants or a skirt, so all you need to remove is your top for the exam. 
  • If this is your first mammogram, please come prepared with a full medical history and share any changes or abnormalities that have appeared in your breasts. Also, bring a list of any treatments you've had done to your breasts in the past. 
  • It's recommended not to get a mammogram during the week before your period. To avoid extra discomfort, schedule an appointment when your breasts aren't tender and swollen. This also helps with the quality of the photos that the X-ray will take. 
  • On exam day, don't wear antiperspirants or deodorants. They can contain ingredients that can show up on the X-ray as white spots. 
  • If you are breastfeeding or think you could be pregnant, please share this information with your doctor before your exam. 
  • During the exam, the procedure will only last 20 minutes and the compression will last a few seconds on each breast. If it does hurt, please tell the tech. Two views of your breasts will be taken, but if you have implants or larger breasts, more might be needed. 
  • You will have to undress above the waist but you will be given a wrap to wear during your exam. A tech will be the only one in the room with you. 
  • You will be standing for the exam, so comfortable shoes are recommended. 
  • Caffeine can make your breasts feel more tender, so limiting your coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate intake a few days before your exam can be helpful. 
  • Eat and drink as you normally would before your appointment, and take your daily medications too. 
  • Don't wear necklaces during the exam, it's best to leave them at home. 
  • What To Expect After a Mammogram?

You've made your appointment and have been seen by the doctor, now what? 

  • Once you've finished at the doctor's office, you're all set! It is recommended that while at the doctor's to just go ahead and schedule your next visit. 
  • The pain and discomfort felt during the exam should stop very shortly after compression, but aching can be felt for a few days after the exam. Using an anti-inflammatory, a heating pad or bath, and avoiding tight clothes can help! 
  • Once you're finished, your doctor will send your full results to your healthcare provider along with a summary mailed directly to you. If you don't hear back from your provider 10 days after the exam, make sure to call and check-in. 
  • Please know it is very common to be called back after your screening. Your doctor might have found something they want to look at a little closer just to be safe. This call back will most likely lead to more pictures and tests. This is when a diagnostic mammogram is used! 
  • You might also need to get an ultrasound on the area doctors want a better look at and an MRI is also possible. 
  • You could be told one of three things in this situation; that it is nothing to worry about and to continue with your regular screenings, that it's nothing to worry about but just to be safe you should come back in 6 months, or that it could be cancer and you need to get a biopsy. Remember, even if you do get a biopsy this still doesn't mean you have cancer! 

If you have any more questions about mammograms and the experience of getting one, please do not hesitate to reach out! We are here to answer any questions and calm any worries. Until next time warriors, stay strong and keep fighting!