Increase Breast Cancer Awareness and Schedule your Exam Today
Each year, October brings about one of the most important awareness campaigns, breast cancer awareness month. Breast Cancer is an extremely common form of cancer, specifically for women. One way October looks to spread awareness is by encouraging women to get mammograms. Mammograms are an immensely important aspect of self-care for both you and your breasts. Knowing what to expect can make the experience much more palatable, whether you are a first timer, or an experienced veteran.
One vital aspect of a mammogram is the preparation for the exam. If possible, you should choose a facility that specializes in the exam. Furthermore, going to the same facility year in and year out allows for your mammograms to easily be compared, thus providing clearer results. However, if you are going to a new place, you should bring a record of your previous mammograms. If you do not have this information readily available, you can contact the other facilities from which you received previous exams and have them sent to the facility you are using this time. This way, you can still have your exams compared. Another important aspect of preparation involves scheduling your exam. You should avoid scheduling your exam when your breasts are tender or swollen to help reduce discomfort as well as get good pictures. Try to avoid the week just before your period. Additionally, you should avoid wearing deodorant on the day of your exam. In fact, some deodorants contain chemicals that show up as white spots on your x-ray. However, you should bring your deodorant with you so you can apply it immediately after the test takes place. Don’t be afraid! Remember, only two to four in 1,000 screenings lead to a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Although it may be uncomfortable, you should discuss any recent changes or problems in your breasts before scheduling your mammogram. This means disclosing any pertinent medical history that could affect your breast cancer risk such as surgery, hormone use, breast cancer in your family, or if you have had breast cancer before. You should also inform the technologist if you are breast feeding, pregnant, or think you might be pregnant. These conditions could affect the results of the test. When you are undergoing the actual exam, there are a few things you should expect. First, you need to undress above the waist but, you will be given a wrap to wear. Don’t worry, you and the technician are the only ones who will be in the room. In order to get a high-quality picture, your breast will be flattened. In order to do this, the technologist places your breast on the machine’s plate. The plastic upper plate is lowered to compress your breast for a few seconds while the technologist takes the picture. While the compression only lasts a few seconds, the whole procedure takes about 20 minutes. It is possible to feel discomfort during compression. Don’t be alarmed! If you feel discomfort, tell the technician immediately, and they will adjust the test accordingly.
On occasion, you may need a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram is often done if a woman has breast symptoms or if a change is seen on a screening mammogram. While a normal mammogram typically presents two views of the breast, a diagnostic takes more pictures, focusing on the area that looked different on the initial mammogram. During the exam, the various images are checked by the radiologist so that more pictures can be taken if needed. In some cases, special images known as spot views or magnification views are used to make a small area of concern easier to see.
After you have had your mammogram exam, you should hear from your health care provider within 10 days. If you haven’t heard within 10 days, do not assume that the test was normal. In this case, you should call the facility where your exam was performed. After your exam, a full report of the test will be sent to your health care provider. You will also receive, if you went to a mammography clinic, an easy-to-understand summary of the results within 30 days, or as quickly as possible, if the results suggest cancer. If you want the full written, mammogram report as well as the summary, you need to ask for it. This October, do your part and get a mammogram. A simple 20 minute test could just save your life!