What to expect at your first mammogram

When your doctor tells you it’s time to schedule your first mammogram you’ll probably have questions on what to expect. Here are some tips and suggestions to help make your first and subsequent appointments as smooth as possible.

Early Detection is key. Don’t put off your mammogram.

Having a mammogram is one of the best tools for early detection of breast cancer.

With the use of low-dose x-rays to create an image of the breast tissue, a mammogram detects lumps that are too small to be felt.

Most doctors recommend women at average-risk get a mammogram every year beginning at age 40. Women with a higher risk of breast cancer should speak with their doctor to find out when they should start having mammograms.

What to expect at your appointment.

First, consider wearing a two-piece outfit so you only have to remove your top. You will want to give all your beauty products – like deodorant, creams, powders and perfumes – the day off. The particles in these products could be visible on your mammogram and cause some confusion.

The x-ray machine gives a quick “hug” as it compresses your breast between two flat paddles. The machine will use a safe low dose x-ray to take multiple images of each breast. Each of your breasts will be compressed for only 20 to 30 seconds. The paddles and compression may be a bit uncomfortable (and cold) but it allows a clear picture of the breast and decreases the amount of radiation needed to make an image.

The results.

After your appointment, a radiologist will review your mammogram. The time it takes to get results can vary. At your appointment be sure to ask how long it takes to get your report and follow up if you haven’t heard back within that time period.

If you find out that your mammogram results are abnormal, follow up tests will be recommended. But remember — an abnormal result doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, less than 1 in 10 people called back after an abnormal mammogram have breast cancer.

Do not skip your yearly check up.

A mammogram is recommended yearly so we suggest you schedule them around your birthday so it is easy to remember. After all, taking care of your health is the best gift you can give yourself.