If you have never had a mammogram, then there are possibly just 2 things that you know about a breast cancer screening exam. Firstly, there is someone who is going to try squashing your boobs as flat as it’s the case with a pancake and you’ll have to let them. Secondly, nobody really agrees on the time when you ought to receive your first squashing.
In case those are the only 2 things that you know, it may sound tempting to delay or skip screening altogether. Definitely, there are some convincing arguments to doing so that include the fact that getting more mammograms does not necessarily mean saving more lives . The time when one should start screening is increasingly becoming an individualized decision; a decision that each and every woman has to make with the guidance of a knowledgeable and trusted doctor. You will need to support yourself with all the latest research concerning what mammograms could and couldn’t do for you. You should also be well-versed in your personal risks for breast cancer. In case that sounds confusing and little scary, you should then join the freaking club.
We all wish that there were more straightforward responses to questions that are naturally raised by this fear and confusion. Nevertheless, this is certainly a discussion that you are going to have to go through with your physician. Once you decide on the time when you should go for your first mammogram, do not worry because we have got you covered with all the inside information. Here is what to expect at your first mammogram:
Schedule your first mammogram for the week just after your period and early during the day
You do not want to get the mammogram in days that lead up to the periods or even during your flow in case that’s the time when you usually tend to experience breast tenderness. This will only lead to more discomfort when the time for pancake action comes. (If you are post-menopause, then the week or day of the month should not make a very big difference.)
A morning appointment may make you to feel a little comfortable because you cannot wear a deodorant or antiperspirant till after the exam is over. This is due to the fact that some of the ingredients might show up on the mammo results.
Leave that cute dress for another day
You will only have to take off your top for the exam. As a result, you should make things more convenient for yourself by wearing separates.
Look for facilities that specialize in breasts
Any place that offers mammograms has to be recognized by the American’s College of Radiology. According to Debra Monticciolo, MD and professor of radiology at Texas University Health Sciences , these centers need to be accredited in all things that they do including biopsy and breast ultrasound. She also says that it’s not that the screening-only sites do not do a great job but the Center of Excellence usually has people who will do the entire gamut. You can also ask the person who will interpret the results of the mammogram.
Expect things to get more than a little handsy
The Official Pancaker (the mammogram technologist), will have to position you as well as your breasts into the right spot so as to take 2 different x-rays results of each. This obviously means handling your breasts physically.
Luckily, the awkwardness does not last for long. Every exposure of each x-ray is just a few seconds. As a result, the exam itself is also short. Monticciolo says that for every exposure, your breasts are probably compressed for around 10 seconds. Furthermore, the most updated mammogram machines have been built to release this compression once the exposure is over.
That does not mean that you will not feel awkward or nervous. A lot of how the technologist handles you and your breasts mostly depends on their experience and skill level. Besides that, it might also depend on how relaxed and patient you are.
It may hurt but not too much
There is no way for sugarcoating this; most women usually find mammograms to be uncomfortable. The degree of pain is subjective since some of us are more sensitive as compared to others. According to Monticciolo, giving your arm a tight, hard squeeze may give you a sense of what it will actually feel like. However, remember that breasts are normally more sensitive than the arm thus the degree of pain won’t be same. The point of this compression is spreading the breast tissue thin enough so as to get clear pictures and it is not meant to torture you.
Most technologists usually do their best so as to make you feel comfortable. Monticciolo recommends that it is also okay for you to speak up when you are not feeling comfortable. . Other helpful tricks that can be used to minimize the pain include taking a couple of ibuprofen to ward off any kind of soreness and also keep an eye on the intake of caffeine.
Do not freak in case you need several extra photos to be taken
A typical mammogram screening consists of 2 shots of every breast, for 4 views total. In case you have implants, you will need 2 extra shots per each breast, for 8 views total. Occasionally, a technologist may re position you for the extra shot or two. However, this should not be a cause for anxiety. It is usually just for getting a better view. Monticciolo says that radiation coming from mammography is very low thus you do have to worry about the additional exposures.
There are great chances that everything will look awesome
According to Monticciolo, around 90 percent of women usually get a letter after a mammo proclaiming completely normal results. In case it is not normal, the results shall be interpreted by radiologists who are physicians and not just lab staffers. The radiologist typically gives a detailed report to the doctor who referred you for the mammo, such as your primary care doctor. They will work out on who will directly contact you about the mammogram results. Nevertheless, you will also receive a letter in your mail that shows what they found out to be abnormal.
You may also be told more about the density of the breast
The density of the tissue within your breasts might make mammograms to be a little trickier to read. There are 4 categories of density and the density normally decreases with the age. Traditionally, the 2 densest groups have earned extra tests whenever it comes to screening breast cancer. There is still need to do more research so as to determine how helpful this supplemental screening is for women with the dense breasts truly is.
Make something fun out of it
This idea comes from The Infertility Voice, an online magazine. You should make a great plan with your friend to go for your mammogram at the same time during one morning and then go for breakfast afterwards. You might probably even have the pancakes.