Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States. If detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent*. When you’re a mom, daughter, friend, grandma, auntie, sister, wife, co-worker, or neighbor, keeping healthy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and those who love you. Average-risk women age 40-70 should have a mammogram every one to two year, based on physician recommendation and medical history. Contact your doctor immediately if you find a lump in your breast.
What is a mammogram? A mammogram is a safe, low-dose X-ray test of the breast used to screen for breast problems or detect breast cancer. Mammograms help screen for breast problems, including cancer.
Does every woman need a mammogram? A routine mammogram is recommended for all women between the ages of 40 and 74. Early detection is a woman’s best protection against breast cancer, which is most easily treated and cured when it is found in an early stage. Results from a mammogram may show changes in the breast tissue years before it can be felt. Having an initial mammogram screening allows us to have a baseline measure for comparison with future routine mammograms.
How often do I need a mammogram? The American Cancer Society guidelines suggest that most women begin by age 40 and continue regular exams thereafter. You doctor can help you decide when you should begin and how often you should have a mammogram based on your family history and personal risk.
What will the exam be like? You will need to remove our clothes above the waist, and will be given a cloth or paper gown to wear. One at a time, each breast will be positioned on a flat plate that containes the X-ray film and may feel cold. Another plate is then pressed firmly against your breast to help flatten out the breast tissue. This allows for minimum exposure to radiation and the clearest possible X-ray image. At least two pictures are taken in slightly different positions for each breast. The exam may take about 15 to 30 minutes.
Will it hurt during the exam? A mammogram is often uncomfortable. To avoid potential discomfort, you may want to schedule the exam for the week after the onset of your menstrual period (if applicable), to stop taking products containing caffeine (such as coffee or chocolate) before the exam, and take an over-the-counter pain reliever (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) before coming in.
How can I prepare for the exam? On the day of the exam, do not use any deodorant, perfume, powders or ointments on your breasts. Sometimes these products contain substances which can interfere with the X-rays. If you forget, let the mammography technologist know and you will be provided with something to wipe it off.
What if I have breast symptoms? If you feel a lump or experience breast pain, nipple discharge, or dimpling on the skin of your breast, notify your medical provider who may need to order different diagnostic tests.
What if I have breast implants? Let the mammography technologist know that you have breast implants. Additional mammography view may need to be taken.
What if I am pregnant? If you are pregnant or think you might be, let your medical provider know before you schedule an appointment for a mammogram.
This document is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual patient. If you have questions please contact your medical provider.
I hope that you have found this information useful. Wishing you the best of health,
Scott Rennie, DO
*This information comes from Five-year survival rate for localized breast cancer, American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2007, page 11.