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8 Things to Expect When You Go in For Your First Mammogram

Since 1990, mammography has helped to reduce the mortality rate of breast cancer in the U.S. by approximately 40 percent. Considering that one of eight women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their life, there is no question that mammograms can be extremely beneficial – and lifesaving.

However, getting a mammogram can be intimidating. This is true even if it isn’t your first one. As a result, getting to know what to expect and learning how to prepare for a mammogram can be extremely beneficial.

Keep reading to learn what you need to expect during your mammogram, and how you can be ready for this process.

1. Learn About the Technology Used

Tomosynthesis is the official name for a 3D mammogram. This type of testing is becoming more commonplace due to the fact that it yields fewer false positives than conventional mammography.

With a false positive, you would have to undergo further testing or treatment for something that isn’t actually cancer. In some cases, when 2D images are evaluated, tissue superimposition may be present. This can make something appear to be cancer, but in most cases, it’s only overlapping tissue.


2. You Shouldn’t Wear Deodorant

Antiperspirants are full of aluminum hydrochlorides. These can look like calcification on the mammogram.

These substances are usually present in deodorants, along with some powders and lotions. If you wear them, then white spots may shop up on your mammographic images, which may look like a tumor.

It’s a good idea to go without antiperspirant or deodorant for your appointment, rather than having something show up on the images that aren’t really there.


3. Know the Difference Between Diagnostic and Standard Screening Mammograms

A standard screening mammogram is just as the name implies. It is the standard process used when you go in for a mammogram.

This is given if no issues are suspected, such as a lump or issues with a previous test. This screening typically involves the technician taking four views of the breast.  A diagnostic mammogram is what is given if a mass is detected or if you have felt a lump. It typically includes several additional views than the standard four views that the majority of women have taken during the procedure.

In most cases, diagnostic mammograms are going to take much longer than a standard mammogram. Even if it is your first mammogram, if you have felt a lump, it is what will be given.


4. There May Be a Little Discomfort

When it comes to a mammogram, it’s a situation where the temporary discomfort is well worth it. Those who are uncomfortable only experience the sensation for a few minutes or less. It has been compared to stubbing your toe.

If you are anxious about the discomfort, it’s a good idea to schedule the mammogram during days 14 to 21 of your menstrual cycle. This is when you are going to be the least sensitive and also have the least number of lumps.

During that week, your breast density is somewhat reduced. This makes it less likely that something unusual will be seen. It is also  beneficial to take some type of over-the- counter pain killer about 30 minutes before the test to reduce your sensitivity.


5. Learn Why Your Breast Tissue is Compressed

During a mammogram, your breast tissue is compressed. Have you ever wondered why? The reason behind it actually makes quite a bit of sense.

The goal is to minimize the overlapping tissue so that everything can be seen clearly. Even with tomosynthesis, which offers a cross-sectional view, it’s beneficial when your breast tissue is completely flat, as it helps you remain still. Motion can cause serious degradation of an image.

If you understand why they are going to “squish” you, it may make it seem a bit less weird and worth the effort.


6. It’s OK to Speak Up

If you experience any type of pain during your procedure, then let the person taking the images know. They may be able to help and  reposition you to make the process more comfortable.

There are some patients who have claimed their tummy was in the way or that the machine was poking them in some way. Most technicians have done so many of these procedures they can help a patient adjust their position and still achieve the desired test results.


7. Know It’s a Fast Procedure

We understand that mammograms can be uncomfortable and even awkward. Take heart in the fact that it’s a process that only lasts a few seconds.

In most cases, a mammogram is only going to take about 15-30 minutes. But in that time period, your breasts are only going to be  compressed for a few minutes total and you will have breaks in between.


8. Results Aren’t Given Instantly

You probably will not receive the results of your test the same day. At PINK, if you absolutely need to have the results of the test the same day, let the scheduler know this and they will do their best to make sure a radiologist is available during your appointment. Otherwise, you are probably going to receive a letter in the mail, and in some cases a phone call or email from the clinic where the test was done. At PINK, we send your results through secure email unless you ask us not to.

If it has been a week, or more, since your test, then you can follow up with your doctor. Just give them a call and see the state of your test results. They should be able to let you know something when you call.


How to Prepare for a Mammogram: Now You Know

If you want to know how to prepare for a mammogram, all you have to do is review the information above. If you are still nervous or  anxious, you can discuss this with your doctor. They can provide more information that will help to calm your fears. If you need more information about getting a mammogram or would like to schedule an appointment, be sure to  . We can help people in and around the areas of Paterson or Flemington, New Jersey.

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