What to Expect During Your First Mammogram
According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2014 there will be more than 232,000 diagnosed cases of breast cancer, resulting in approximately 40,000 deaths. Research shows screening mammography can help reduce these numbers among women from ages 40 to 74.
The American Cancer Society recommends women ages 40 and older get a mammogram every year, in addition to a clinical breast exam.
The thought of your first mammogram may be nerve-wracking, but knowing what to expect can help alleviate any anxiety.
Scheduling your exam
If you don’t know who to see, ask your OB/GYN or primary care physician to refer you to a facility. Keep in mind that it’s best to schedule your appointment one week after your menstrual cycle when your breasts aren’t as tender to reduce any discomfort you may experience during the exam.
What to wear
Keep in mind you’ll be wearing a gown during the exam; therefore, it’s most convenient to wear a two-piece outfit so you only have to undress from the waist up. If possible, avoid wearing deodorant, cream, lotion or powder. These substances can create shadows and may result in inaccurate x-ray images, requiring you to go in for a second mammogram. This can be quite alarming and also exposes you to unnecessary radiation.
The day of the exam
After you check in, you will be escorted to a private dressing area to change into a gown. A mammogram technician will then take you to the mammogram room and talk you through each step of the process. The technician will show you where to stand and what to do to ensure an accurate screening. It’s common to feel some discomfort in your breasts while the x-ray images are being taken, but remember, the entire exam takes less than 30 minutes.
After the exam
You’re able to leave immediately after your mammogram. There is no recovery required and you can return to your everyday activities right away. You should expect to hear results from your physician within a few weeks, unless there is an area of concern, in which case you may hear sooner.
Recommended review by an oncologist or radiologist specializing in breast