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Mammograms Explained: What To Expect At Your First Visit

Mammogram screenings are a necessary part of life for women everywhere. Though they’re never as terrifying as people expect, the possibility of the worst case scenario — the discovery of a lump — makes many women nervous. Ignoring your breast health is dangerous, which is why these screenings are so important.

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the U.S., placing women at a higher risk than normal. As with all cancers, the earlier the detection, the better the chances that chemotherapy treatment or cancer radiation treatment will work. As such, routine screenings and exams do a lot to keep you safe. In an effort to calm your fears, here is an outline of what you can expect at your first mammogram appointment.

Preparation: Being well-prepared for your appointment protects you from any unexpected surprises. Be sure to bring the order for the mammogram with you or be sure that the office has a copy. Don’t wear deodorant, powder, lotion, or ointment around the chest area — they may appear as a problem on the x-ray. Additionally, since mammograms can be uncomfortable, try to avoid caffeine prior to your appointment and schedule your appointment a week after your last period.

Time: Though each of your breasts is only compressed for about 20 to 30 seconds, the entire appointment will last around 30 minutes. The compression which spreads out the breast tissue helps to ensure a clearer view so that doctors can see abnormalities with greater ease. Expect to come 15 minutes early in case you need to fill out any extra information when you arrive.

Statistics: Most unusual mammogram findings do not indicate cancer. More often than not, lumps are benign and harmless. It is entirely common for women to receive suspicious findings on their mammogram; sometimes another mammogram is required, sometimes it is not. It is important to follow the advice of your physician.

As a woman, you are inherently at risk of developing breast cancer. Your strongest weapon is awareness; if you stay up to date on your mammogram screenings and gynecological visits, you greatly increase your chances of survival should cancer ever be detected. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or local women’s health services to gain more information.