IMPORTANT MAMMOGRAM FACTS
What is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is essentially just an x-ray of the breast tissue.
Irregularities in tissue density show up in an x-ray and can be used for early detection of breast cancer.
What is involved in getting a mammogram?
- A visit to the radiology center is the usual way to get a mammogram.
- Your mammogram appointment is often made for the same day as the rest of your yearly exam.
- You will be told to not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period, as your breasts might be swollen or tender at that time.
- Do not wear any deodorant or perfume to your appointment. Toss your deodorant in your purse and apply it after your mammogram.
- Don’t wear a dress, but a separate top that is easy to remove.
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Does it hurt?
Well, it’s not comfortable, but taking an over the counter pain relief medication before your appointment goes a long way to helping.
The breast tissue will be flattened by the machine to get the best image.
Several angles are needed for proper diagnosis, so expect to turn so that your doctor can get a series of images.
At what age should I start?
- If you know that premenopausal women in your family have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the best thing you can do is discuss your particulars with your OB-GYN. Together, you will decide what risk factors you have and when the best time to start with mammograms is, as well as if other screening tests are appropriate.
- According to the American Cancer Society, if you have no outstanding risk factors in your family, you may choose to begin having mammograms between the ages of 40 and 44.
- Women between 45 and 54 should get mammograms every year.
- After age 55, you can get a mammogram every two years.
- The age at which you stop getting them should be decided by you and your doctor, but the general guideline is that if you expect to live more than ten years more, you should continue to get mammograms.
Do certain risk factors mean I should start getting them earlier?
- Yes, see the above guidelines.
What risk factors increase the likelihood of getting breast cancer
According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, currently known risk factors include the following:
- Being female (males get breast cancer too, though in significantly smaller numbers)
- Family history
- Age of first period, age of first childbirth, and age of menopause
- Jewish Ashkenazi Heritage
- Rate of alcohol consumption
- Use of birth control pills
- Radiation exposure
- Certain hormone levels
For a full list, visit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
If I don’t have risk factors, do I still need to get a mammogram?
- Yes, when you reach the age of 40, you should consider starting them, and at the age of 44, you need to get them.
For more answers, call and make an appointment with a gynecologist at Women to Women OB-GYN Care.