In 2018, there were over 265,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in women. Breast cancer detection is the main reason women over the age of 40 are encouraged to get a mammogram, but it’s not the only one. Keep reading to discover the importance of getting a mammogram and what to expect.
1. Early Detection
When it comes to any type of cancer, early detection is key for survival, but this is especially true when discussing breast cancer.
Your gynecologist likely encourages you to do self-breast exams. This includes feeling your breasts and armpits before or after you shower or when lying down comfortably on your bed. The arm on the side of the body you’re checking should be up and over your head. Then, use firm, circular motions over your entire breast and into the armpit area. Check for any abnormalities or lumps. Last, squeeze the nipple and check for tenderness, lumps, or discharge. Performing regular breast exams is important at any age, but did you know that a mammogram can detect a lump up to 2 years before you can feel it?
Early Detection Saves Lives
The fact is that getting a mammogram significantly decreases your chances of getting breast cancer by a shocking 30%! Not to mention, breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women. Mammograms can detect breast cancer in the very early stages, increasing your chances of survival by 98%! It’s recommended that women over the age of 40 get a mammogram every year, but if breast cancer runs in your family, it’s recommended you get checked earlier. Most doctors recommend that women with a family history of breast cancer get their first mammogram no later than 10 years before the age when the family member was diagnosed. That means if your aunt or mother were diagnosed at age 48, you should get checked no later than age 38.
2. Relatively Convenient
One of the main reasons people avoid doctor’s appointments and testing is because it’s inconvenient. Laziness isn’t an acceptable excuse when it comes to getting your annual mammogram. Not when these tests can save your life! Still not convinced? Mammograms take as little as 20 minutes to perform. And while they’re sometimes uncomfortable, they’re relatively painless. If a lump is detected, the technician will inform both you and your doctor and you can take the next necessary steps. This usually includes a biopsy to determine if the lump is in fact cancerous. You can learn more about this procedure here.
3. Lead by Example
Getting a mammogram means setting a positive example for all other women in your life. If you’re a mother, sister, or daughter, choosing to get yourself checked might just inspire someone you know to do the same. If a friend or relative has been avoiding getting their mammogram out of fear, uncertainty, or not wanting to know the truth, help show them how easy the test is and its importance. If you need motivation for getting your mammogram, think about doing it for yourself and those you love most.
What to Expect from Your First Mammogram
Now that you know a few of the many reasons to get a mammogram and you’re ready to schedule yours, let’s discuss what you can expect. For many women it’s the fear of the unknown that stops them from ever booking an appointment. Let’s put that fear to rest with these helpful tips on getting your first mammogram.
What to Wear
The technician will ask you to remove your clothing from the waist up — this includes your bra, shirt, and jewelry. Wear clothing that is loose and comfortable. This makes it easier for the tech to perform the test. It’s also recommended you skip on the perfume, deodorant or any type of powder that might interfere with the procedure. The office will provide a gown for you to wear to cover the top portion of your body. Your pants and shoes can remain on.
When to Go
Because the procedure does involve an X-ray and pressing your breast tissue between two cameras, it’s best to avoid getting your mammogram done when your breasts are especially swollen or tender. Swollen breasts will also make it more difficult for the technician to get an accurate picture. Avoid going approximately one week before your period. Two other important pieces of information to share with the technician are if you are (or suspect you are) pregnant and if you’re currently breastfeeding.
Don’t show up to the doctor’s office empty handed. If you’ve had any issues in the past, be sure to bring records of those mammograms or tests. Be honest and upfront with your doctor about any abnormalities or discomfort you’ve felt. Your medical history is also important. Be sure to tell the technician about any family history of breast cancer, medications you’re currently taking (especially hormones), or if you’ve had breast augmentation surgery (although they can likely see this on their own).
The Procedure Itself
If you’re worried about privacy, don’t be. You and the technician are the only two people in the room during your exam. And remember, the tech is a highly-trained professional. Mammograms require your breast to be completely flattened for them to get a quality picture. The mammogram machine is made up of two, flat plates. The tech will place your breast on one plate, while the second one comes down to compress your breast. This is when the picture is taken. This part of the procedure only takes a few seconds, so don’t be alarmed by the discomfort. Depending on the size of your breasts, the tech might need to take more than one picture. But the minimal discomfort you feel is momentary and well-worth the live saving results.
Annual mammograms aren’t just for women over the age of 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer, it’s important to get checked. And women at any age should perform self-check exams regularly. In some cases, breast cancer is preventable. Put your fears aside and increase your chances of survival today!
Article Submitted By Community Writer