Health and Medical

Mammogram 101: Understanding the experience

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in the US. The good news is breast cancer can be detected early with self-examinations, mammograms, and other screening tests. Going for a mammogram can be an overwhelming experience for many women, primarily because they worry about the results. A mammogram is just an X-ray of the breasts. There are two kinds of mammograms – screening and diagnostic. The latter is more extensive, as more X-rays of each breast are taken from different angles. Before you step into a mammography screening clinic in Boise, here’s what to expect. 

Who should get a mammogram done?

If you have an immediate family member who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you should schedule regular mammograms after you turn 40. In many cases, doctors may recommend screening mammograms just as a precautionary measure. Diagnostic mammograms are usually recommended for women who have dense breast tissues or when something unusual has been found in a screening mammogram. If you have a lump or other symptoms, your doctor may order a mammogram to rule out breast cancer. 

Getting a mammogram done

If you are still menstruating, always schedule the mammogram a week after your period. Your breasts can be more tender before your periods. The screening clinic will share a few details and instructions after scheduling the mammogram. Firstly, ensure that you do not apply anything around the chest area (deodorant, powder, lotion, or creams). Since you will need to remove your top, pick something that would be easy to wear. During your mammogram, you will be wearing a gown. 

How long does it take?

A mammogram takes about 30 minutes, and you can go home immediately after (there is no downtime). Your breasts will be compressed against the X-ray machine, which can cause some discomfort, but this should not last for more than a few seconds. The radiologist will complete the mammogram and send a report to your doctor later. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor will rely on other screening tests, as a mammogram will expose the body to a small amount of radiation. 

Just because something unusual has been found in the mammogram report doesn’t mean you have breast cancer. Always rely on your doctor for a diagnosis. You may have to repeat mammograms, but ensure that you keep all your previous records safe. Your doctor may want to refer to these reports later. 

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