What to expect during a mammogram

What to expect during a mammogram

Mammograms are potentially life-saving screenings, but they’re not something most women look forward to. Don’t let the thought of your first mammogram give you anxiety. Instead, focus on just how important mammograms are for your health.

According to the American Cancer Society, about one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Chances are that somebody you know and love has been affected by breast cancer. Mammograms and breast self-exams are the two best ways you can detect breast cancer in its early stages, minimizing the extent of treatment and perhaps even saving your life.

Who needs a mammogram? 

The standard recommendation is that women should get an annual mammogram starting at age 40. However, there are some individual risk factors that may indicate you should get a mammogram earlier. For example, if you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend a clinical breast exam and/or mammogram in your 20s or 30s.

If you are known to have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation (or have a parent, sibling or child with the mutation) or had radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30, you may be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer and may therefore need to get a mammogram sooner.

Know your family history of cancer and talk to your physician to determine your individual risk and when you should have your first mammogram.

What can you expect during a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. There are essentially two types of mammograms: screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms. A screening mammogram is used for women who have no other breast cancer symptoms. The purpose of a screening mammogram is to find breast cancer when it’s too small to be felt by a woman or her doctor.

A diagnostic mammogram is to further investigate any possible problems with the breast. For example, if you have a lump or nipple discharge, or have an abnormal area found during a screening mammogram, your doctor may order a diagnostic mammogram to take a closer look.

During a mammogram, you will have to undress above the waist. The technologist will position your breast on the machine’s plate for the mammogram. The upper plastic plate is then lowered to compress the breast for a few seconds while the X-ray is taken. Typically, two images of each breast are taken during a screening mammogram. More may be taken during a diagnostic mammogram.

It is normal to feel some discomfort while your breasts are compressed, and for some women, it can be painful. To minimize pain, try to schedule your mammogram when your breasts are not tender or swollen. If you find mammograms are still uncomfortable, be sure to let your technologist know.

You should receive the results of your screening mammogram within a few days. If you are having a diagnostic mammogram, you may receive your results sooner.

Routine mammograms can mean the difference between early and late-stage detection of cancer, so don’t put off getting a mammogram. If you are over 40 or have a family history of breast cancer and have not had a mammogram this year, schedule yours with The Retreat Women's Health Center today.

Posted: 10/21/2015 by Goshen Health
Filed under: breast, cancer, Cancer Care, health, mammograms

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