Mammograms 101: What You Need to Know

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According to The United States Preventive Services Task Force, women aged 50 to 74 should get a mammogram every 2 years. As for women younger than age 50, they should talk to a doctor about when to start and how often to have a mammogram.

If you haven’t talked to your doctor about getting a mammogram, you should. When you get a mammogram, you’ll receive a low-dose x-ray that looks for irregularities in your breasts. Unlike a breast exam, an x-ray will uncover changes in breast tissue that cannot be felt or seen. All women have breast changes as they age. But without a mammogram, you don’t know if the differences in size, shape, and feeling is a natural occurrence or a result of something more serious.

 

How to Detect Breast Cancer ASAP

The best way to detect breast cancer is to get a mammogram and breast exam from a doctor. The earlier you take preventative measures, the better your chances of catching possible cancer and treating it. The faster your cancer is detected, the better your chances are of eliminating it.

 

What’s It Like to Have a Mammogram?

Mammograms are not an arduous process. Your doctor will place your breasts in a special x-ray machine. The machine will flatten your breast to get a clearer look at the tissue. The pressure may cause some discomfort, but any pinching that happens will only take place momentarily. Considering the alternative, a few seconds of minor soreness is worth it.

 

What Your Doctor Looks For

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Picture courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

If your mammogram is clear, then your doctor will let you know and you can breathe a sigh of relief. If you’re wondering what your doctor is looking for, here are some things she’ll look for:

  • Lumping of tissue. If you see a “building up” of tissue, this could be a sign that something’s irregular. If the lump has a clear edge, chances are it’s benign (at a very early stage). If the lump can’t be distinguished clearly, then it could be cancer.
  • White spots. There are two types of white spots you may see on your x-ray — one is normal and the other may be a sign of cancer.

 

How to Prepare for a Mammogram

Here are few things you can do to make your mammogram go smoothly:

  • Avoid unnatural products before your mammogram. The chemicals in deodorants and other hygienic products may disrupt the x-ray process. It’s best to not use any sort of make up, lotions, etc. when you proceed with your mammogram.
  • Schedule accordingly. The best time to make an appointment for a mammogram is one week after your menstrual cycle because this is when your breasts are the least tender.
  • Male or female. It’s okay to ask for a male or female doctor to conduct your exam if that’s what makes you most comfortable.
  • Dont drink coffee. Also, skip the energy drinks or any other type of stimulant. Why? Because the caffeine my increase breast tenderness, which will make the x-ray process more painful.

 

Where to Get More Information

Contact the following organizations for more information about breast cancer and mammograms.

American Cancer Society

Phone: 800-227-2345 (TDD: 866-228-4327)

Breast Health Access for Women With Disabilities

Phone: 510-204-4866 (TDD: 510-204-4574)

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS

Phone: 800-633-4227 (TDD: 877-486-2048)

National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program

Phone: 800-232-4636 (TDD: 888-232-6348)

National Cancer Institute, NIH, HHS

Phone: 800-422-6237

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Phone: 877-465-6636

 

Photo Credit: kristiewells

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