I turned the big 4-0 last year. After my annual GYN exam, my doctor suggested that I schedule my first mammogram. Yikes! I hate going to the doctor, but I’m all about preventative care. So I went home and did some research.
I was surprised to find out that the medical community is divided on the guidelines for mammograms.
Be informed. Do your research and have a conversation with your healthcare provider.
My insurance company covers mammograms for women ages 40 and over. So I went ahead and scheduled the screening. Here are a few things you should know before your first mammogram.
Before the Mammogram
- Schedule your exam one week after your period because your breasts are less likely to be tender.
- Don’t wear a dress. You will have to disrobe and put on a hip-length gown that opens in the front. Leave that pretty dress at home and wear a two-piece outfit.
- Get a morning appointment. Why? Well, you can’t wear deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder on the day of the screening. These products may contain substances that may look like a tumor on the x-ray.
- Ask if Tomosynthesis, 3-D mammogram, is an option. Because this type of mammogram has fewer false-positives. And no one has time to go through a second round of breast squishing and squeezing.
- The screening will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Plan accordingly.
- Choose a facility accredited by the American College of Radiology and certified by the FDA. These facilities adhere to the highest standards for technicians and doctors who interpret the mammograms.
- Consider taking over-the-counter pain medicine if you have a low tolerance for pain.
During the Mammogram
The technician will explain the entire process to you. When it’s time to start, you will untie the hip length gown and stand in front of the machine.
The technician will put one breast on the platform. Then will position your body so it doesn’t obstruct the image. The technician will lower the top plate to
compress flatten your breast like a pancake. This is done to spread out the breast tissue.
You will be asked to stand still and hold your breath for a few seconds while the technician takes the image. The technician will take a minimum of two images per breast.
After the Mammogram
The technician will review the images. At this point you may want to say a prayer that the images are adequate. You will have to repeat part of the test if any of the images are inadequate.
The technician will let you know when you can expect to receive your results. She may also tell you that many women receive a false-positive and not to worry. You will just need to schedule an appointment for additional screening.
The images will be sent to a radiologist who will interpret the images and send a written report to your doctor.
The report will include your results and breast density. Knowing your breast density is important because dense breast tissue increases your risk of getting breast cancer. It also increases the chance of a false-negative because dense breast tissue makes it hard to spot a cancerous lump.
I received my results two weeks later. My results were normal and my breasts are heterogeneously dense. This means that approximately 51 to 75% of my breast tissue is dense.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience. The over-the-counter pain medicine helped and I didn’t feel any pain during or after the procedure.