Tips for Your First Mammogram
If you’re between the ages of 40 and 50, it may be time for your first mammogram. The experts don’t all agree on the exact age to start, and it can vary with specific risk factors, so talk to your health care provider about when you should schedule your first mammogram. This essential health screening is one of the best methods for early detection of breast cancer for many women. However, they can be intimidating, and many women have questions before their first mammogram. Knowing what to expect can alleviate much of this anxiety and make your first mammogram experience go much more smoothly.
What to Expect During Your First Mammogram
Mammograms are excellent early detection tools for breast cancer, helping find it in the treatable stages. This screening helps give breast cancer patients the best outcomes. However, many women find the procedure intimidating, especially when going in for the first time. But, there’s no need to be fearful — often, women report that their mammogram was not as bad as they had imagined.
You’ll schedule an appointment with a mammogram technologist at an FDA-certified facility like Envision Imaging for your procedure. When you check in for your screening, the technologist will ask you to undress from the waist up, and give you a gown or robe for your comfort. Many facilities have spa-like atmospheres, so sit back and try to relax while you wait.
During the mammogram procedure, you and the technologist will be the only people in the room. The technologist will position your breasts in the right place on the machine for the imaging. Your breast will rest on a plate on the mammogram machine, and another plate will press against it during the procedure to flatten and compress the breast tissue to get the best-quality images.
Generally, the technologist will take two images per breast. In specific circumstances, such as with breast implants or larger breasts, more images could be necessary. Each image will only compress the breast for a few seconds, and the technologist will reposition you between each image. The whole procedure usually lasts for about 10 to 20 minutes. Many women feel some slight discomfort during the compressions, but if it feels painful, be sure to let the technologist know.
Right after the procedure, you’ll be able to get dressed and go home. With most screening mammograms, the technologist will send a report back to your health care provider within a couple of days, and your provider will call you with the results. You will also likely receive a written report directly from the imaging facility.
Ensuring Your First Mammogram Experience Goes Smoothly
You can help make yourself more comfortable during your mammogram procedure by following a few helpful tips.
- Choosing a facility: If you have a choice, pick an imaging facility that is FDA-certified and specializes in mammograms, or does several mammograms every day. If possible, keep going to the same facility for subsequent mammogram appointments. This consistency ensures your images and records are uniform.
- Scheduling your appointment: You’ll want to schedule a time when your breasts are not swollen or tender, as they are the week before your period. If you are still menstruating, the week after your period is the ideal time to schedule a mammogram appointment. During this week, the breasts are usually at their least tender, so the procedure may be a little more comfortable.
- Preparing for your mammogram: On the day of your appointment, your chosen facility will ask you to refrain from using any deodorants, antiperspirants, lotions, powders or fragrances on the area around the chest. Some particles in these products can show up in the imaging as white spots and appear as breast tissue abnormalities, skewing the results of the test. Some women like to schedule the mammogram early in the morning, so that they do not have to go all day without deodorant, lotion or other personal care products. You can bring these products with you and apply them immediately after your appointment if you’d like. You may also like to dress in separates — a top and pants or a skirt — instead of a dress or jumper. Because you’ll be undressing from the waist up at your appointment, this makes it easier and more comfortable for you. Avoid wearing excessive jewelry and other accessories.
- What to bring: When you go to your mammogram, bring along your original health care provider’s name and contact information to ensure the imaging facility has the correct information on hand and knows where to send your results. Also bring any previous breast health information or records, if you have any. Before your mammogram, discuss with your care provider any breast issues or concerns, as well as your family’s health history. If you are breastfeeding or may be pregnant, bring this up with your care provider and technologist before the procedure.
- Don’t be afraid: Try to put yourself at ease before your appointment, knowing that mammograms are essential health screenings, and that only about two to four routine mammograms out of 1,000 lead to breast cancer diagnoses. Even when an abnormal result comes across, it’s not necessarily cancer. Dense breast tissue, benign cysts and other harmless conditions can cause anomalies that may need further testing. The procedure itself is brief — only about 10 to 20 minutes, and only a few seconds of compressing the breasts for each required image.
- Treat yourself: With every mammogram appointment, reward yourself with something you love. Take yourself out for a treat or shopping afterward, or incorporate self-care like a massage appointment the same day. That way, you’ll be sure to have positive associations with your mammogram appointment.
- Schedule next year’s mammogram: Take a minute at your appointment to schedule next year’s mammogram right away, if you can. If this is not possible, set an alarm or reminder on your calendar to ensure you don’t forget or put it off. Regular, annual mammograms are a crucial step for living a long and healthy life.
Schedule a Mammogram
When it’s time to schedule your first mammogram, contact a qualified imaging facility like Envision Imaging and the Women’s Imaging Center at Colorado Springs Imaging. We offer high-quality imaging services, along with convenient, flexible scheduling and compassionate care to help put you at ease. Our caring staff will ensure you have a comfortable, pleasant experience at every appointment. Find the Envision Imaging location nearest you, or contact the Women’s Imaging Center at Colorado Springs Imaging to schedule your first mammogram today.