Getting Your First Mammogram
Let’s face it: Few women are excited about having their first mammogram (or even their second, third or tenth one). However, for most women, a mammogram, or X-ray of the breast, is the best way to detect breast cancer as early as possible, since it can detect lumps up to three years before they can be felt. Oprah Winfrey famously schedules hers each year on her birthday, as a gift of health and wellness to herself. Unless you are at high risk of breast cancer, your doctor will likely suggest your first annual mammogram at age 40. Ideally, you should schedule your mammogram the week after your period, when your breasts are least tender. You won’t be able to wear deodorant, lotion or anything on or around your chest, so you may want to make your appointment in the morning, if possible (otherwise, you can bring deodorant with you). Likewise, wear pants or a skirt, rather than a dress, so that you only have to remove your top.
You will be standing up when your mammography technician will position your breasts in front of the X-ray machine. The technician will place your breast on a clear, plastic plate, and a second plate will press your breast from above (the same will be done from both sides); your breasts will only be compressed for about 30 seconds each. This compression spreads and flattens the breast tissue, providing a clear picture of the breast. While the compression can be uncomfortable, it is brief, and the discomfort varies based on the size of your breasts and how much they need to be compressed. The technician will send the results to your doctor, who can discuss them with you at that point. If you have questions or concerns about mammograms, please let us know.