Pre­par­ing for your mam­mog­ra­phy visit

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BREAST CANCER AWARENESS -

An­nual mam­mo­grams are widely rec­om­mended for women be­gin­ning at age 40. Some es­ti­mates sug­gest that more than 48mil­lion mam­mog­ra­phy screen­ings are per­formed in the United States ev­ery year.

Whether it is a wo­man’s first mam­mog­ra­phy or her twen­ti­eth, pre­par­ing for the ap­point­ment can ease anx­i­ety and make the ex­pe­ri­ence go more smoothly. The fol­low­ing are some guide­lines to con­sider when pre­par­ing for a mam­mog­ra­phy visit.

Choose a rep­utable and cer­ti­fied fa­cil­ity. Se­lect a ra­di­ol­ogy cen­ter that is cer­ti­fied by the FDA, which means it meets cur­rent stan­dards and is safe. Many women also pre­fer to se­lect a fa­cil­ity that is cov­ered by their health in­sur­ance. Plans usu­ally al­low for one mam­mo­gram screen­ing per year.

Time your visit. Sched­ule the mam­mo­gram to take place one week af­ter your men­strual pe­riod if you have not reached menopause. Breasts are less likely to be ten­der at this time. Also, sched­ule your visit for a time when you are not likely to feel rushed or stressed. Early in the day works best for many.

Dress for the oc­ca­sion. Two-piece en­sem­bles en­able you to only re­move your shirt and bra for the ex­am­i­na­tion. A blouse that opens in the front may be op­ti­mal. Some fa­cil­i­ties re­quire you to wear a pa­per gown for the exam.

Watch your groom­ing prac­tices. You’ll be ad­vised to ab­stain from wear­ing pow­der, per­fume, de­odor­ant, oint­ment, and lo­tions on the chest or around the area. These sub­stances may look like an ab­nor­mal­i­ties on the mam­mo­gram im­age, po­ten­tially re­sult­ing in false pos­i­tive di­ag­noses.

Take an OTC pain med­i­ca­tion. Mam­mo­grams are not nec­es­sar­ily painful, but they can put pres­sure on the breasts, which cre­ates dis­com­fort. Breasts are com­pressed be­tween a plas­tic plate and the imag­ing ma­chine. This spreads out the tis­sue and helps cre­ate a clearer pic­ture. If your breasts are ten­der, med­i­ca­tions like ac­etaminophen or ibupro­fen taken an hour be­fore the ap­point­ment may ease dis­com­fort.

Ex­pect a short visit. Mam­mo­gram ap­point­ments typ­i­cally last around 30 min­utes. The tech­ni­cian will mark any moles or birth­marks around the breasts so they can be ig­nored on the imag­ing. You’ll be asked to hold your breath as the im­ages are taken. If the im­ages are ac­cept­able, you are free to go. But new im­ages may be needed in some in­stances.

Mam­mo­grams are now a rou­tine part of women’s pre­ven­ta­tive health care. The pro­ce­dure is sim­ple and ap­point­ments are quick and rel­a­tively pain­less.

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