What to Know Before Your First Mammogram
The American Cancer Society recommends that women have their first mammogram at age 45 — earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer — and every year after until age 55 at which point the mammograms can be every two years. You already know that getting a mammogram is an important part of protecting your health, but the first time can still be a bit intimidating. Here's what you need to know to be comfortable and prepared.
The Facility Matters
If your insurance lets you choose where to get the mammogram done, do your research and pick a facility that specializes in mammography. They're the most likely to have the newest equipment and to have a dedicated mammography reader on staff. Independent medical centers can also be quite a bit cheaper than hospitals if you need any kind of follow up diagnostic work.
Timing Is Important
For the clearest pictures and least amount of discomfort, it's recommended to schedule your mammogram the week before your period. If you have irregular cycles, this may not be a possibility, but some outpatient facilities have more flexible scheduling and maybe able to get you in on shorter notice than a hospital.
Deodorant Is a Don't
In some cases, deodorants and anti-perspirants can show up on mammograms and give false readings. If you're worried about going without, try to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning so you can go right after a shower and take deodorant with you to apply when you're done.
The Technician Does the Positioning
It's important for your breast to be placed correctly for an accurate picture, and the technician may have to do some moving around to get everything where it needs to be. If you're uncomfortable with this, you can talk about it with the technician beforehand to see if there are other options.
It Doesn't Take Long
Mammograms are usually very quick procedures with the entire thing taking only about 20 minutes, and the actual breast compression just a few seconds on each side. If you have large or dense breasts or have implants, it may take a bit longer as these cases sometimes require more pictures for a thorough screening.
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