As a woman, getting a mammogram is an important part of maintaining your health. However, if you’ve never had one before, it can also be a little nerve-wracking. It’s completely normal to feel anxious or uncertain about what to expect during your first mammogram. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help demystify the process and prepare you for what’s to come.
1. Preparation – Before you go in for your mammogram, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Try to schedule your appointment for after your period ends, as your breasts will likely be less tender and lumpy at that time. Avoid wearing deodorant, antiperspirant, lotion or powder under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam, as these products can show up as shadows on the X-ray. During the exam, you’ll need to undress from the waist up, so choose a top that’s easy to remove.
2. The Exam Room – When you arrive at the imaging center, you’ll be taken to the exam room and asked to change into a gown. You’ll then be asked to stand in front of the mammography machine, which looks a bit like a large camera. Your breast will be placed on a platform and gently compressed with another platform, in order to get the clearest X-ray images possible. This can be uncomfortable, and some women experience pain or tenderness during the procedure. However, the compression only lasts a few seconds, and is necessary to capture an accurate picture of your breast tissue.
3. The Results – After the exam, a radiologist will review the X-rays to check for any abnormalities. If you don’t hear back from your doctor within a couple of weeks, it’s assumed that everything is normal. If there are concerns, your doctor will call you back for additional testing.
4. Follow-up – Mammograms are typically recommended once a year for women over the age of 40, although your doctor may suggest more frequent screenings if you have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors. If your first mammogram is normal, congratulations! You’ve established a baseline that will be used to monitor changes in your breast tissue over time. If any issues are detected, don’t panic – most abnormalities turn out to be benign. Your doctor will work with you to decide on the next steps, which may include additional imaging, biopsies or other tests.
5. Stay Informed – The better informed you are about breast health, the more empowered you’ll be to take care of yourself. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have, and make sure you’re completing regular self-exams at home. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to catch any issues early and ensure the best possible outcomes.
If you’re preparing for your first mammogram, it’s completely natural to feel nervous or apprehensive. However, by knowing what to expect, you’ll be better equipped to approach the exam with confidence and peace of mind. Use this guide as a resource to help you prepare, and don’t hesitate to ask your doctor any questions or concerns you have. Remember, getting a mammogram is an important part of maintaining good breast health, and it’s a step towards ensuring a happy, healthy future for yourself.