Some women can be a bit reluctant to receive a screening mammogram, especially their first one, but being prepared and knowing what to expect can help you feel more comfortable.
“Almost every patient is concerned that it’s going to hurt,” says Kim Ford, a mammography technologist at Tidelands Health Imaging Network, our region’s comprehensive imaging provider. “I always tell them that it’s not going to be as bad as they might think. And any temporary discomfort you may feel is easily worth the life-saving benefits of the screening.”
A mammogram uses a low-dose X-ray to visualize the inner workings of the breast and enable radiologists to look for abnormalities or changes in breast tissue. The goal of regular screening mammograms is to catch cancer early when it is easier and more successfully treated.
Here are 10 tips to help your next mammogram go smoothly:
- Schedule your mammogram before your period when your breasts are less tender and swollen, which can help reduce any discomfort you may feel.
- Don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant. These products may contain substances that can show up on your imaging and result in a call to return for a follow-up exam.
- Reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks and chocolate three to four days before your appointment. Caffeine may make breasts sensitive and more tender.
- Wear a shirt and bra that are easy to remove since you’ll need to undress from the waist up. You’ll be given a gown to wear during the exam.
- Wear flat shoes, sneakers or low heels, which will provide more stability when you need to stand for the exam.
- Remove any breast jewelry and leave it at home. Breast jewelry can interfere with imaging.
- Tell the technologist of any areas you’re concerned about or any changes you may have noticed in your breasts. Also, let the technologist know if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant.
- Be prepared for the technologist to position your breasts—one at a time—on the machine’s plates, which enable the upper plastic plate to lower and compress the breast for imaging.
- Avoid moving while the technologist activates the machine. Movement can result in blurry images and the need for follow-up imaging. If anything hurts, let the technologist know. Your breast may need to be repositioned.
- Don’t become alarmed if you don’t hear from your physician right away with your results. Allow several business days before you reach out about your results.
It’s easy to get a screening mammogram at Tidelands Health. Simply call 843-701-5532 to self-schedule.
With seven locations across Georgetown and Horry counties, the health system’s imaging network offers the convenience and affordability of freestanding imaging centers, as well as hospital-based imaging services for complex medical needs.