Making Sense of Mammograms: Why Are They Important?
From self-exams to mammograms, all forms of breast cancer screening are important to practice. The earlier a breast cancer is found, the higher the chance that treatment will be successful – and mammograms are one of the best tools for detecting breast cancer early.
A mammogram is an X-ray image of breast tissue that can help health care providers identify possible signs of breast cancer. A mammogram in itself cannot determine if you have breast cancer, but it can help you and your provider know if you need further testing. It can also help you detect breast cancer very early on – even before you experience any other symptoms.
The American Cancer Society recommends that most women should start yearly mammograms at age 45, but should talk with their health care provider about options at age 40. Depending on your specific health needs, you may need to start mammograms earlier, so it’s important to speak with your provider about the best choice for you.
Feeling a little bit nervous about your mammogram? That’s completely normal, especially if it’s your first one! When you have a mammogram coming up, here are a few things you can do to help feel more prepared and help your appointment go well:
- Avoid scheduling your mammogram when your breasts are likely to be tender or swollen, which may happen during the week before your period.
- Personal hygiene items like deodorant, perfume and powders can affect the clarity of the X-ray image, so avoid wearing them the day of your appointment.
- Because it is necessary to undress the top half of your body for the X-ray, you may want to wear pants or a skirt with a top rather than a dress to the appointment.
- You might feel some discomfort while the X-ray is being taken, but if you feel sharp pains, let your X-ray technician know.
Screenings save lives - so don't put them off. Reach out to your health care provider with any questions about mammograms and the best breast cancer screening options for you.
About the Author
Vinay Gudena, MD, practices hematology and oncology at the Cone Health Cancer Center at Wesley Long.