1st June, 2024`
Mammograms: What to Expect

Mammograms are a powerful tool in the early detection of breast cancer. By capturing detailed images of breast tissue, mammograms can identify potential abnormalities long before physical symptoms manifest. However, the thought of a mammogram can be daunting for many women, especially those having their first screening. In this blog, we will demystify the mammogram experience by detailing what to expect during the procedure, addressing common concerns, and emphasizing the importance of regular screenings.

Understanding the Basics

Before delving into what to expect during a mammogram, it's important to comprehend the basics of this breast imaging procedure. A mammogram is essentially an X-ray of the breast that helps detect breast cancer at an early stage. It involves compressing the breast between two plates to create clear images of the breast tissue. Mammograms can identify tumours, cysts, calcifications, and other irregularities that may not be noticeable during a physical breast examination.

Scheduling and Preparation

Scheduling a mammogram is the first step. Typically, women begin regular mammogram screenings around the age of 40, but this may vary based on individual risk factors and medical recommendations. It's important to schedule your mammogram at a certified radiology or breast imaging centre with experienced professionals.

In preparation for your mammogram, consider the following:
  • Timing: Schedule your mammogram during a time when your breasts are less likely to be tender or swollen. This is typically during the first half of your menstrual cycle.
  • No Deodorant or Lotion:Avoid using deodorant, lotion, or perfume on your chest and underarms on the day of the exam, as these products can interfere with the imaging.
  • Wardrobe Choice: Wear a two-piece outfit for ease of undressing from the waist up.
  • Previous Mammograms : If you've had mammograms at different facilities, bring the images and reports with you to provide a basis for comparison.
  • The Mammogram Procedure

    When you arrive for your mammogram, you will be asked to undress from the waist up and will be given a gown to wear. The technologist will position you in front of the mammography machine, and the breast being examined will be placed on a special platform.

    The procedure involves compressing the breast between two plates. The compression is necessary for two reasons:

  • Even Thickness: It ensures that the entire breast is of even thickness, allowing for clearer X-ray images.
  • Less Radiation: It requires less radiation exposure, as a thinner breast requires less radiation for an effective image.

The compression lasts only for a few seconds, during which you may feel some pressure or mild discomfort. The level of discomfort varies from person to person and should not be painful. Communicate with the technologist if you experience significant discomfort.

For a complete mammogram, two images of each breast are typically taken - one from top to bottom and one from side to side. This process will then be repeated for the other breast.

After the Procedure

Once the mammogram is complete, you may be asked to wait briefly while the technologist reviews the images to ensure they are of high quality and show the necessary detail. In some cases, additional images may be needed.

Understanding Your Results

After your mammogram, it's natural to be concerned about the results. Remember that an abnormal result does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Most abnormalities found on mammograms turn out to be benign, but further evaluation is required to determine the cause.

The radiologist will analyze the images and send a report to your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will discuss the results with you and recommend any necessary follow-up tests, such as additional imaging or a biopsy.

The Importance of Regular Screening

One of the key takeaways from understanding what to expect during a mammogram is the vital role this procedure plays in early breast cancer detection. Detecting breast cancer in its early stages greatly increases the chances of successful treatment and survival. Regular mammogram screenings are essential, and guidelines may vary based on age and risk factors. It's crucial to follow the recommendations of your healthcare provider and stay proactive about your breast health.

Overcoming Concerns

It's common for individuals to have concerns or anxiety about mammograms. Some may worry about the compression, while others may be anxious about the results. It's important to remember that the mild discomfort during the procedure is temporary and tolerable. Moreover, the peace of mind and potential early detection of breast cancer far outweigh any momentary discomfort.

In conclusion, mammograms are a valuable tool for the early detection of breast cancer. By understanding what to expect during a mammogram and the importance of regular screenings, individuals can take charge of their breast health and potentially save lives through early detection and treatment. Don't hesitate to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider, and remember that you are taking proactive steps towards your well-being by prioritizing your breast health.

Dr. Hema Chaudhary
Senior Consultant
Department of Radiology
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