What to Expect at Your First Mammogram
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to bring light to the importance of regular mammograms in early detection of breast diseases. It’s not unusual to be nervous about getting a mammogram. In fact, fear is one of the most common reasons that women put off the routine screening. But a mammogram doesn’t need to be a scary experience. If you know what to expect, you’ll find it less intimidating. Dr. Adora-Ann Fou, Westmed breast surgeon, answers questions you may have to help you prepare for your first mammogram.
Why Are Mammograms So Important?
Mammography is the most effective way to screen for breast cancer. Mammograms can detect cancer at the earliest stage: stage 0. In fact, mammograms can show changes in the breast up to two years before they can be felt by your doctor.
When Should I Start Getting Mammograms?
Current guidelines from the American College of Radiology and the Society for Breast Imaging recommend annual mammography screening starting at age 40. If a patient is considered high risk or has a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend starting annual screenings earlier.
What Should I Expect at My First Mammogram?
You will be asked to undress above the waist and wear a special gown. Your technologist will position you and gently compress your breast for the mammogram pictures. Your mammogram typically only takes about 20 minutes, while the breast compression only lasts a few seconds. Your technologist will guide you through the process and address any concerns or questions you may have. You will be asked to lie on your back on an exam table with a pillow under your head and shoulders. Your ultrasound technologist will apply clear gel to your skin and slide the transducer back and forth to take pictures and measurements of images created on the monitor. Do not be alarmed if your radiologist decides to take more images. Often, a few extra images will answer any additional questions that the radiologist may have and there will be no need for further exploration.
How To Prepare for Your Mammogram
It is best to wear a two-piece outfit, such as a shirt with pants or a skirt. A dress or jumpsuit may complicate uncovering your breasts for the exam. Avoid wearing deodorant and wear sneakers or flat shoes. You will be standing during your mammogram and heels could interrupt your balance. Talk to your provider about taking acetaminophen before your appointment if prior mammograms have been painful (avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen, such as Advil or Motrin, for two weeks leading up to your mammogram in case you need a biopsy that same day). It is also important to bring any prior mammogram images along with you if this is your first time at our facility.
When Will I Receive My Results?
Our team believes that patients should receive test results as soon as possible. If your test was performed on a weekday, you will typically receive results the same day, on-site or over the phone. If you receive an abnormal result, you may be asked to come back for further imaging or a consultation with a breast surgeon. We pride ourselves in being thorough and getting you the right diagnosis as quickly as possible, so you can have peace of mind.
Click here to view locations and hours for all Westmed mammography and imaging services and click here to schedule for your mammogram appointment.