Ease into Your First Mammogram

You get a lot of your “firsts” out of the way early in life—the first day of kindergarten, the first time on a rollercoaster, or the first time driving a car. But for most women, another first comes a bit later in life: the first mammogram.

“We recommend beginning mammogram screening at age 40 and to continue to get them annually,” says Meghan Musser, DO, radiologist at Kettering Health and medical director of Kettering Health Breast Centers. “If a patient has other risk factors, that may be a reason to begin screening earlier, but that should be discussed with a doctor.”

With every new experience can come apprehension about what to expect.

Being prepared for your first mammogram is one of the best ways to ease this anxiety.

Think before you schedule

When requesting your mammogram appointment, try to avoid the week just before your period. During this time, your breasts may be tender or sore, which could cause extra discomfort during testing. If your breasts are tender, it may be more difficult for you to tolerate the positioning needed to get clear pictures.

As you get ready to go

While you’re preparing to go to your appointment, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • *Don’t put on deodorant. It could be seen on the X-ray image, so if you aren’t going straight home after your exam, bring it with you to apply after the test. You should also avoid any lotions, powders or ointments in the chest area.
  • *Wear separate pieces of clothing. This isn’t a requirement, but since you will be asked to remove your shirt and bra for the exam, you may want to avoid dresses if you don’t want to be fully unclothed.
  • *Make a list. If you’ve ever had any sort of breast exam or diagnostic exam, make sure you bring a list of where and when those occurred to help the radiologist get an understanding of your medical history.
  • *Express your concerns. Think about whether you’re experiencing any symptoms or problems with your breasts. This could include pain, swelling or changes to the skin. It’s important to bring up these concerns during your appointment. If you have any breast symptoms, a screening mammogram may not be the test for you. You should talk to your doctor about these concerns before your appointment because they may order a different test.

During the appointment

Before your mammogram starts, you will be asked to remove clothing from the waist up and will be given a warm gown to wear. You will be asked to expose only one breast at a time. The technologist in the room will help position your breast onto the machine, which will use two plates to compress the breast. Kettering Health Breast Centers offer Dueta technology, which allows you to participate in your mammogram through patient-assisted compression.

“The compression allows us to spread your breast tissue apart, which gives us a better view,” explains Dr. Musser.

The mammography machine will take X-ray images that a radiologist will later examine for areas of abnormal tissue. From there, the radiologist may order additional imaging or a biopsy of the breast if something looks abnormal.

Waiting for results of your first mammogram

For some women, nervousness may cease as soon as they walk out the door. For others, however, fear of suspicious results lingers.

“It’s a very understandable fear,” Dr. Musser says. “But it’s a small number of women that get called back for more work-up, and even more rare for those women to have cancer.”

Still, Dr. Musser urges women to get any symptoms checked out. If there is an abnormality such as cancer, early detection allows women the best possible prognosis.

Visit ketteringhealth.org/pink to schedule your mammogram today.


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