Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early, yet some women avoid them out of fear. If you know what to expect and how to prepare, mammograms aren’t so bad.
Here’s some information to help put you at ease before your next mammogram:
Know the screening guidelines
Although different organizations offer different recommendations, at Temple, we follow the American Cancer Society® (ACS), which recommends that women at average risk of developing breast cancer get mammograms yearly between ages 45 and 54. Women aged 55 and older can switch to every other year or continue getting annual mammograms. The ACS gives women between the ages of 40 and 44 the option to begin getting mammograms, often based on risk. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
Choose a facility specializing in mammography
It's important to choose a facility specializing in mammography, like one of several Temple Health women’s health centers and breast cancer screening locations throughout the region. Our centers offer a full spectrum of breast cancer screening tests, from traditional and 3D mammography to breast MRI and breast ultrasound, often used in conjunction with mammography as next-level screening tools. If you’ve had a mammogram before, you also want to try to go to the same facility (as long as you feel it is a quality place) so your results can be more easily compared year to year.
Schedule your appointment
Once you’ve decided where to go, it’s time to make an appointment. Select a date and time that’s convenient for you, but try to avoid the week before your period, when your breasts are more likely to be tender or swollen. You can schedule an appointment today with Temple Health.
Bring previous records
If you’ve had breast screenings done at other facilities, bring those records with you or arrange to have them sent to the new facility to be used as a basis for comparison. This should include mammograms, biopsies, and other screenings or breast procedures.
Most facilities will instruct you on what to do when you come for your mammogram. In case they don’t, or you forget, the only thing you need to do on the day of the exam is to not use any deodorant, antiperspirant, perfume, lotion, cream, or powder on your breasts or under your arms.
Inform the technician
Let the person doing the test know about any areas of concern and breast changes you’ve noticed. Let them know if you have breast implants, are breastfeeding, or think you might be pregnant. Ask any questions you may have before the test begins.
Some people dread getting mammograms because they feel uncomfortable, but remind yourself that it’s only a few minutes of discomfort that can potentially save your life (breast compressions only last 10 to 15 seconds per image). The more you relax and think positive thoughts, the less bothered you will be by the test.
Getting routine mammograms is an essential step in maintaining your breast health. Be proud of yourself for taking this step.
It is important to remember that these recommendations are for women at average risk. More frequent screenings may be recommended if you have a personal or family history of breast cancer or a genetic mutation known to increase the risk of breast cancer (such as the BRCA gene). If you had chest radiation therapy before age 30, you may also be at an increased risk.
If you think you should get a yearly mammogram or are concerned about your breast health, schedule an appointment today.