Guide to Preparing for Your First Mammogram

Is it time for your first mam­mo­gram? Read what to expect at your appoint­ment and how mam­mo­grams play a part in your over­all breast health.

Your first mam­mo­gram is a major mile­stone in tak­ing care of your breast health. In the past few decades, mam­mo­grams have reduced breast can­cer deaths by almost 40% — a promis­ing fig­ure for the most com­mon can­cer among women in the US except skin cancers. 

While mam­mo­grams are a life­sav­ing tool, they can also be over­whelm­ing when it’s time for yours. You might be won­der­ing how to pre­pare, what the expe­ri­ence will be like, and what hap­pens when the appoint­ment is over. Here are answers to 5 ques­tions regard­ing your first mammogram. 

1. When and how often should I get a mammogram?

Sched­ul­ing your first mam­mo­gram depends on your age and risk of devel­op­ing breast can­cer. In gen­er­al, women can begin annu­al mam­mo­grams at age 40. Some women, such as those with a genet­ic muta­tion or a rel­a­tive who was diag­nosed with breast can­cer at a young age, may be rec­om­mend­ed to have ear­li­er and more fre­quent screenings. 

When it’s time to sched­ule your first mam­mo­gram, try to sched­ule it for a week after your men­stru­al cycle, when your breasts are like­ly to be less tender. 

Ready to take charge of your breast health? Sched­ule your mam­mo­gram at Duly Health and Care today. 

2. What hap­pens dur­ing a mammogram?

A mam­mo­gram is a type of X‑ray that uses a machine that allows you to remain stand­ing dur­ing the test. To start, a tech­nol­o­gist will place one breast on a plas­tic plate. Then, they’ll adjust anoth­er plate to press from above, flat­ten­ing the breast. By spread­ing the tis­sue apart, mam­mo­grams use less radi­a­tion and cre­ate a high­er-qual­i­ty image. 

As the plates are pressed togeth­er, you’ll feel some pres­sure. The tech­nol­o­gist will take the X‑ray pic­ture and then repeat the process for a side view of the breast and the oth­er breast. Each pic­ture will take about 10 to 15 sec­onds, and the entire process will take about 15 to 20 minutes. 

3. Do mam­mo­grams hurt?

Mam­mo­grams can be uncom­fort­able and, for some women, painful. Your expe­ri­ence will depend on the size of your breasts, how much they need to be pressed down, and the skill of the tech­nol­o­gist per­form­ing the mam­mo­gram. You may also have more pain if you’re in the mid­dle of or about to begin your men­stru­al cycle. 

For­tu­nate­ly, mam­mo­grams only take a few moments. Once it’s done, the dis­com­fort is over. What’s more, mam­mo­grams can save your life, which is well worth a few min­utes of pain. 

4. What should (and shouldn’t) I wear for my appointment?

On the day of your mam­mo­gram, you’ll need to remove your clothes from the waist up. To make this eas­i­er, wear a sep­a­rate top and bot­tom, and avoid dress­es and oth­er one-piece outfits. 

Don’t wear deodor­ant, pow­der, or per­fume to your mam­mo­gram appoint­ment. These can show up on the X‑ray and make it hard­er for a radi­ol­o­gist to read your results. Some places offer spe­cial wipes to remove these prod­ucts if you for­get. If you’re not head­ing straight home after your appoint­ment, you may want to bring your deodor­ant along with you to apply after your mammogram. 

Final­ly, it’s best to leave neck­laces at home and remove any nip­ple pierc­ings before your appointment. 

5. How soon will I get the results from my mammogram?

Your mam­mo­gram will be read by a radi­ol­o­gist, a health­care pro­fes­sion­al trained in diag­nos­ing dis­eases using med­ical imag­ing, includ­ing mam­mo­grams. Usu­al­ly, you’ll get your results with­in a few weeks.

If your mam­mo­gram is nor­mal, you can con­tin­ue to get mam­mo­grams at the rec­om­mend­ed inter­vals. By get­ting reg­u­lar mam­mo­grams, radi­ol­o­gists can com­pare one pic­ture to anoth­er to mon­i­tor for any con­cern­ing changes. This is why it’s also help­ful to go to the same health­care provider each time you get your mammogram. 

If your mam­mo­gram is abnor­mal, don’t pan­ic. Abnor­mal mam­mo­grams don’t always mean you have can­cer. How­ev­er, you will need addi­tion­al tests, such as anoth­er mam­mo­gram, to deter­mine the cause of the abnormalities. 

Mam­mo­grams: A Key Piece of Your Breast Health

Reg­u­lar mam­mo­grams are a cru­cial aspect of mon­i­tor­ing your breast health. It’s also impor­tant to pri­or­i­tize your breast health in oth­er ways, such as main­tain­ing a healthy weight, exer­cis­ing reg­u­lar­ly, eat­ing healthy, and lim­it­ing how much alco­hol you drink. You should also become famil­iar with your breasts so that you can report any changes to your health­care provider. 

Man­ag­ing your breast health is not a one-time con­cept. Instead, it requires an ongo­ing com­mit­ment to stay­ing healthy, mon­i­tor­ing for changes, and keep­ing up with your mammograms.

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