What every woman—and man—should know about getting a mammogram
Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here is some information to help you understand the best method to detect early breast cancer: the mammogram.
What is a mammogram and why should I have one?
In short, a mammogram is a low-dose x-ray picture of the breast. This screening test can help detect breast cancer early, which is especially important now that clinical breast exams for women with no symptoms of breast abnormality are no longer recommended. Early detection offers the best chance for a cure.
When should I have my first mammogram?
The American Cancer Society recently updated its guidelines on breast cancer screening and now recommends that women with an average risk of breast cancer begin having mammograms at the age of 45 and continue to have yearly screenings until the age of 54, where women may start following a bi-yearly schedule for as long as she is healthy and expected to live another decade.
Be sure to consult with your doctor if you find changes in your breast such as:
- A lump in the breast or underarm
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- Pain in any part of the breast
- Liquid leaking from the nipple or a difference in how the nipple looks
How is a mammogram performed?
As you stand in front of the mammogram x-ray machine, a technician will place your breast on a small platform. Another plate will press down on your breast for a few seconds as the technician takes several pictures of the breast. While there may be some discomfort, it lasts only moments. A specialist will then examine the x-ray pictures to determine if there are any changes in your breast.
What if I am at high risk for breast cancer?
The American Cancer Society’s updated guidelines recommend that women at high risk for breast cancer should yearly mammograms as well as breast MRIs. MRIs may also be used as follow-up for abnormalities found in regular mammogram screenings, but are not recommended for screening women of average risk at this time.
Where should I get my mammogram?
It is important to have your mammogram read by a doctor who specializes in interpreting your x-ray images. The American College of Radiology offers an online accredited facility search to help you find an accredited facility near you. Digital mammograms are preferable for women with dense breast tissue and women under age 50, so seek a center that specializes in digital mammography if you meet such criteria.
How should I prepare for a mammogram?
- Be sure to bring any prior mammogram films or cd’s to your appointment
- Try to schedule your mammogram after your monthly period when your breast tissue is less sensitive
- Skip wearing deodorant, lotion, perfume or powder the day of your exam
- When scheduling your mammogram, let the clinic know if you have breast implants, as it will help them properly prepare for your screening (additional pictures may be required)
- If you’re concerned about discomfort, consider taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory before your appointment (ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
There is no good reason to put off scheduling your mammogram. There are, however, plenty of good reasons to do it today. Should you have questions regarding mammogram screenings for breast cancer or any other diagnostic procedure, be sure to check with the experts at POM MRI & Imaging Centers and schedule your mammogram today.