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Going for a mammogram? Here's how to prepare

by , 14 November 2013

A mammogram is an X-ray image of your breast that doctors use to screen for breast cancer. While mammograms don't prevent breast cancer, they can help save your life by finding breast cancer as early as possible. And that means all women should do them. If yours is coming up, use these simple steps to prepare for your mammogram.

Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread, says the National Cancer Institute.

Non-profit organisation, Breastcancer.org says mammograms have been shown to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer by 35% in women over the age of 50.

If you have some anxiety about going for a mammogram and aren’t sure of how to prepare, don’t fret, we’ll allay all your fears.

Follow these steps to prepare for your mammogram:

The Mayo Clinic recommends you do the following to prepare for your mammogram:

Step #1: Choose a certified mammogram facility. The certification will ensure that the facility meets certain standards.

Step #2: Schedule the test for a time when your breasts are least likely to be tender. If you haven’t gone through menopause, that’s usually during the week after your menstrual period. Your breasts are most likely to be tender the week before and the week during your period.

Step #3: Bring your prior mammogram images. If you’re going to a new facility for your mammogram, gather any prior mammograms and bring them with to your appointment. This will help the radiologist compare them with your new images.

Step #4: Don’t use deodorant before your mammogram. Avoid deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams or perfumes under your arms or on your breasts. Metallic particles in powders and deodorants could be visible on your mammogram and cause confusion.

Step #5: Consider an over-the-counter pain medication if you find mammograms uncomfortable. Taking an over-the-counter pain medication, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) an hour before your mammogram might ease the discomfort of the test.

What can you expect once you’ve arrived for your mammogram?

During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between two firm surfaces to spread out the breast tissue. Then an X-ray captures black-and-white images of your breasts that are displayed on a computer screen and examined by a doctor who looks for signs of cancer.

The medical site says that at the testing facility, you’re given a gown and asked to remove neck jewelry and clothing from the waist up. To make this easier, wear a two-piece outfit that day.

After images are made of both your breasts, you may be asked to wait while the technician checks the quality of the images. If the views are inadequate for technical reasons, you may have to repeat part of the test. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes.
You’ll then be told when to expect your test results, but some facilities do give results on the same day.

It’s recommended that all women over the age of 40 undergo annual mammograms and women of all ages should self-examine their breast at least once a month for lumps or other changes in the breast, says Health24.

The bottom line: Having a mammogram done is one of the most powerful tools against breast cancer. It can save your life if the cancer is found and treated early.

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