Many women are intimidated by, or nervous about, getting a mammogram. However, these screenings could save your life, detecting any abnormalities before they become a major problem. Over the last several years, improvements have been made to the process of getting a mammogram, allowing women to feel more comfortable and in control during the screening.
When to get a mammogram
The standard guideline for when to start getting yearly mammograms is at age 40. However, some doctors may recommend getting screened earlier than that, especially if there is a family history of breast cancer. You can talk to your doctor about when you should start having a yearly mammogram.
Before your appointment
Prior to your appointment, learn about your family history of breast cancer, and bring this information to your doctor. This will help your doctor to know what your risk of developing breast cancer may be.
Your doctor may ask you not to wear any lotion, deodorant, or other topical creams or powders on the day of your appointment as they may interfere with the accuracy of the screening.
Types of mammograms
There are two types of mammograms. The first is a screening mammogram which is used as a prevention tool to look for abnormalities in women who have no breast cancer symptoms. These tests usually happen once a year.
The second type of mammogram is a diagnostic mammogram which is used to diagnose a symptom such as a lump found in the breast.
How it works
A mammogram is a kind of imaging procedure. As the breasts are gently compressed, images are taken that can reveal whether there are any abnormalities. The patient is in control of the compression, ensuring that it doesn’t cause any pain. Usually, two different images will be taken of each breast.
Getting your results
In some cases, you can receive your results immediately after the mammogram if there is a specialist available who can read the images. Otherwise, your results will be available in a week or two by mail.
It is important to note that some women have breast tissue that may make it difficult to accurately spot abnormalities on a mammogram. And while mammograms are the best breast cancer screening tool there is, it is not perfect. So if you experience any unusual symptoms even after receiving a normal mammogram, make an appointment with your doctor right away.