Preparing for Your First Mammogram

If you are feeling nervous or even downright scared because of your upcoming schedule for your first ever mammogram, please do know that those feelings are valid. Even if there are plenty of women who go through this diagnostic process, a trip to the hospital or diagnostic center may not be that simple especially for the one who is to undergo the test. For that reason, we want to help you through this guide on how to get ready for your first mammogram. 

Understanding The Test

If you have not had a schedule for a mammogram just yet but have been advised to get one, it greatly helps to know what this test is for and why it is beneficial for you. When you reach a certain age (around 50), you are often advised to get the mammogram to check for any signs of breast cancer or lack thereof. You may have already been doing breast self-examination and that is indeed a good habit but a mammogram uses precision machines that give a much clearer picture of the state of your breast tissue. This is very important because breast cancer is one of the highly treatable forms of cancer provided that early detection is done. The earlier the detection, the better the options for treatment. You’ll be surprised to know that in the US alone, there are at least 38 million breast cancer survivors.

The testing machine, while does not involve any tissue extraction, has direct physical contact on your breasts so it is important to consider the following preparations:

  1. Wear comfortable clothing, preferably a 2-piece so that it is easier to undress from waist up.
  2. Avoid using products such as deodorants, perfume, lotions and other topical applications that might interfere with the image quality of the machine.
  3. If you do already wear any of the products mentioned above, bring wet wipes or a towel that you can use to wipe them off. (though diagnostic centers usually have a wet wipe you can use prior to testing)
  4. Bring your medical records, especially anything involved with your breast health.
  5. Bring your insurance card and any photo ID

Helpful Tips

Apart from the necessary list above, there are a few more tips that will help you get through the test smoothly.

  1. Make sure you book a schedule ahead of time. Though there are some centers and clinics that may accept walk-ins for testing, booking a schedule ensures that you don’t have to wait in line.
  2. Inform your physician ahead if you do plan to get a mammogram so they can advise if you are cleared for testing.
  3. Inform your physician ahead if you do plan to get a mammogram so they can advise if you are cleared for testing.
  4. Inform the  center about your breast surgery history (if applicable) such as implants and biopsies.
  5. Bring a book or any material that can distract you while you wait for your turn. Even if you have scheduled ahead, there is still some amount of waiting. It helps to clear your mind just before you get inside the room for testing.
  6. Have a support person come with you. If you are someone who prefers having emotional support, a close friend or a family member, will help with the anxiety or nervousness that comes prior to testing.
  7. Be on time or arrive earlier than the scheduled appointment. There will be paperwork that needs filling up so it helps to go through them carefully prior to your appointment.

When NOT to Get a Mammogram

While it is often encouraged to get a mammogram for women from 50 years old and above, there are certain conditions that actually need to be considered before getting the test done. For example, if you are not yet of the recommended age but closing towards it (40s), you may want to consult first with your doctor if it is already time for you to get a mammogram. Below are other considerations for not getting the test:

  1. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can potentially harm the baby with the low-dose of radiation. If there are any cases of suspected breast cancer, alternative imaging methods such as MRI may be offered.
  2. As mentioned in our helpful tips, If you have had a recent breast surgery or biopsy, you should wait for your healthcare provider’s clearance before scheduling for a test.
  3. If you are underaged, or below 40, it is often not yet recommended to get a mammogram because the breast tissue at a younger age is denser which could lead to difficulty in reading abnormalities. Though certain exceptions may be made if your healthcare provider will advise it especially for those with a consistent history of breast cancer in their families.

To make the most out of your first mammogram, a specialist physician is the best person to talk to, preferably one that is familiar with your health history. If one is not available to you, the diagnostic center may refer a specialist to you to guide you through the process. 

Breast cancer is not a death sentence. Early detection can save lives. Your choice of getting the test is a step towards that direction of a healthy life. 

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