For women who are between the ages of 45-54, one of the most important steps they should take to protect their health is to get a mammogram annually. Women over age 55 should get one every two years.
Why are they important? Because mammograms can detect early stages of breast cancer, often long before a woman would feel a lump or notice any signs that a problem was developing. When cancer is detected earlier it can be more easily treated.
How Does It Work?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast, using a machine specifically designed for this purpose. The machine that takes these x-rays works at a lower radiation dose than other types of x-rays. A mammogram is taken both vertically and horizontally of each breast in order to examine as much breast tissue as possible.
Getting Ready for a Mammogram
When you schedule your mammogram, be sure that your breasts are not swollen or tender and try to avoid scheduling a it the week before your period.
Here are some day-of-mammogram tips:
- Do not apply antiperspirant or deodorant. Some products may contain substances that show up as spots on the x-ray images. (If you’re not going home after your appointment, bring your deodorant along with you and you can put it on after your exam is complete.)
- It’s good to wear pants or a skirt vs. a dress or something that’s one-piece. That way, you’ll only have to remove your top and bra for the exam.
- Leave your jewelry at home. Otherwise, you’ll need to remove it before your mammogram.
Finally, before getting the mammogram, be sure to mention any changes or issues you’ve had with your breasts with your healthcare provider.
Having a Mammogram
During the exam, you’ll stand in front of the X-ray machine. The healthcare provider will ask you to step forward towards the machine so they can position your breast on a plastic plate.
Next, another plate will be lowered from above, which will flatten your breast, and hold it still so the x-ray can be taken. These steps are repeated in order to complete all the images. After this, the plates will be released and you’ll be able to return to a private area when you can get dressed.
You won’t receive the results of your tests at this time. Check with your doctor to find out when you’ll receive your results.