What to expect when you go for a Mammogram
Mammograms are an essential step towards being in control of your breast health. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a sceptical newbie, here are a few things you should know that will make the process go more smoothly!
1. Mammograms Save Lives
Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and for most women, it’s the best breast cancer screening tool available. Mammography is a technique that uses X-rays to provide an image of inside the breast. These images are used to find potential signs of breast cancer including tumours, small clusters of calcium, and abnormal changes in the skin. For some women at high risk, other forms of screening may also be considered. Overall, the sooner cancer is detected, the greater the chance of survival.
2. Plan Ahead
Schedule your mammogram for the week after your period. Try to avoid an appointment during or leading up to your period, because that’s when most women experience breast tenderness. If you’re post-menopausal, timing won’t make a difference. It may be beneficial to schedule your appointment in the morning, because you can’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant until after the exam. Knowing where you’ll be screened is also important. Ideally find a screening centre close to you and where you feel comfortable. Try to go to the same facility every time so that your mammograms can easily be compared from year to year.
*TIP* Plan to treat yourself to brekkie or some self-pampering afterwards as a nice reward!
3. Come Prepared
On the day of your screening, dress in a two-piece outfit so you only have to remove your top. The facility conducting the mammogram will give you a gown to wear. You may need to fill out relevant forms and bring them with you to your appointment. If your last screen was done at a different facility, you should bring any previous breast x-rays you have with you. Screenings typically take about 20 to 30 minutes, so plan your daily schedule accordingly.
4. Test Procedure
During the screening, each of your breasts will be compressed for only 20 to 30 seconds. While compression can be uncomfortable, it’s also very important. It allows the breast tissue to spread and flatten to ensure a clear view of the breast. In a typical mammogram screening, two shots are taken of each breast. If you have implants, you’ll need several additional shots per breast. Sometimes a technologist might reposition you for an additional shot or two, but no need to panic. This is usually just to get a better view. Always describe any breast changes or problems you’re having to the technologist doing the mammogram. Also describe any medical history that could affect your breast cancer risk—such as surgery, hormone use, breast cancer in your family, or if you’ve had breast cancer before.
5. Ask About Your Density
Becoming aware of your breast density can be vital for you. Breast density is a way to measure how much of your breast is made up of fatty tissue. Dense breasts contain less fatty tissue, making it hard to find tumors or other changes on a mammogram. The only way to truly know if you have dense breasts is through mammography. Don’t leave without asking your healthcare provider: “Do I have dense breasts?” If a radiologist determines that you have dense breasts, talk to your healthcare provider about what screening options are available to you. It is important to take into account other risk factors like family history of breast cancer, personal health history, and lifestyle.
6. Don’t Stress!
Being in control of your breast health is something that should be empowering! The test is extremely brief, the amount of radiation is incredibly low, and the benefits of early detection are immense. By making your appointment and staying aware of changes in your breasts, you’ll be taking the appropriate measures to ensure you are living a long and healthy life.