Mammograms are used to analyze breast tissue and to detect signs of breast cancer. Although mammograms are not the only form of detecting breast cancer (self-checking and other methods such as MRI’s are also used), it’s important to get annual mammograms after the age of 40. Women with a family history of breast cancer or who may be at a higher risk should begin their regular check-ups earlier, by age 30.
Mammograms typically last about 20 minutes. During the screening, you and a technologist are the only ones present in the room. The breasts are placed in the machine’s plate and will be compressed for a few seconds. This is done in order to flatten the breasts and capture high-quality pictures of the tissue.
How to prepare
There are a few factors to consider in order to prepare for a mammogram. Avoid wearing deodorant or antiperspirant the day before your screening, as this may show up as white spots, and make sure to discuss breastfeeding or any concerns if you may be pregnant prior to the imaging.
If you are visiting a facility for the first time, bring past records with you so that the old pictures can be compared to the new ones. Additionally, avoid scheduling your appointment the week prior to your period and when your breasts are not swollen. This helps reduce the level of discomfort and to get better quality pictures.
What you should know
After your images are taken, a radiologist will analyze to see if there are any areas of concern. Additional testing, such as an MRI scan or biopsy may be required, although it does not necessarily mean something was detected. Results will be sent directly to your health care provider and typically mailed to you within 30 days or sooner if cancer is detected.
An important thing to keep in mind is to remember to schedule routine mammograms once a year. Detecting signs of breast cancer early is the best way to increase your chances of receiving proper treatment with successful results. And most importantly, don’t be scared, only about 2-4 out of every 1,000 screenings lead to a diagnosis.