Have No Fear: Common First-Time Mammogram Worries

Oct 15 • 2015

Screening mammograms are one of the best ways women can take control of their health. Because early detection is so important, identifying any issues right away can maximize your chance of overcoming the disease. Once a woman turns 40, she should begin scheduling annual screenings. For many women, this experience can be stressful. However, some of the most common worries experienced before a mammogram are unnecessary.

One of the biggest concerns is whether the test will hurt. When a mammogram is performed, a machine uses two plates to flatten the breast. This spreads the tissue so the imaging goes through it more easily, allowing for a clearer picture without using as much radiation. Depending on the machine, the photos are then printed or saved digitally. While there can be some discomfort from the compression itself, understanding why it is necessary can help prepare you for any pain you might feel. “Women do so many things for their own beauty that are much more uncomfortable than a mammogram, like waxing or eyebrow grooming,” said Beth Turner, RN and administrative director for Baptist Women’s Health Center. “The compression only lasts a few seconds and a mammogram could save your life.”

Another common concern for many women is embarrassment. If you are more modest and are worried about others seeing your breasts while performing the screening, it is important to remember that the technologist is a professional. “This is what they do every day,” Turner said. “You can be assured they will handle you professionally so there is no need to feel embarrassed.”

Lastly, many women avoid getting mammograms because they are afraid of what the results may be. The truth is, most mammograms bring back normal results. A very small number of women are called back for an ultrasound or additional imaging to make sure an area is okay. You can speak to your doctor personally to help alleviate your concerns, but remember that having the screening is too important to be skipped because of unknown possibilities.

Before your first mammogram, Turner recommends talking to people you know and trust. “Have a conversation with someone who has had one because they know what to expect,” she said. “When you arrive, let the technologist know it is your first time. They will work with you to make you as comfortable as possible.”

Have you had your annual mammogram this year? If not, what are you waiting for? Visit Baptist’s Breast Health Services page to schedule an appointment today.