October 01, 2014

Preparing for a Mammogram

mammogram prep

Getting a mammogram takes less time than the average coffee break. And, for one in every eight U.S. women who will develop breast cancer, a mammogram can mean the difference between life and death because it detects tumors in the earliest stages.

To ensure that you’re comfortable when getting a mammogram and that the process goes smoothly, there are steps you should take to prepare. Mammogram prep is especially important for women who are having their first exam.

To best prepare for your mammogram exam, follow these helpful tips:

  • Scheduling your mammogram appointment. Schedule your mammogram at least one week after your last menstrual cycle. Your period can increase breast tenderness and tissue sensitivity, which can make your test uncomfortable. Inform your doctor or mammogram technician if there’s any possibility that you’re pregnant. Schedule your mammogram on or near the same date annually to make sure you don’t let a year – or two – slip by without making an appointment. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40.
  • Avoid caffeine before a mammogram. Don’t drink coffee, energy drinks or other caffeinated foods and beverages a day or two before the exam. Caffeine can increase breast tissue tenderness.
  • Mammograms and deodorant. Avoid wearing deodorant, perfume or lotion the day of your mammogram. Aluminum flecks contained in some of these products may show up on your mammogram, making the images more difficult to interpret.
  • Take a pain reliever. Reduce any discomfort during and after your mammogram by taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen one to two hours before your appointment.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Preferably a two-piece outfit so that you only have to remove your top and bra for the examination. Avoid wearing jewelry or wear jewelry that can be quickly and easily removed. You’ll be given a hospital gown, wear it with the opening in the front.
  • Arrive with your records. Bring any records or films from previous mammograms performed at other facilities. By comparing them with your current results, your doctor is more likely to spot any abnormalities.
  • Talk to your technician. Let your technician know of any changes or abnormalities you’ve felt during breast self-exams. This information, along with your medical history, will aid your doctor in early detection of breast cancer.

What to Expect When Getting a Mammogram

If this is your first time, you may wonder what to expect during a mammogram. Your mammogram exam should take approximately 30 minutes. A radiologist will then review the images and send a report to your doctor, who’ll contact you to discuss the results. Keep in mind that what are sometimes referred to as “suspicious findings” are things like cysts, dense breast tissue or a problem with the image produced by the test rather than cancer.

Many women have suspicious finding in their first mammogram because their doctor has no previous image to which to compare the results. If a follow-up mammogram or breast ultrasound is ordered, it may be simply out of an abundance of caution.

Learn more about Baptist Health cancer care services and schedule a mammogram today.

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