Preparing for a Mammogram
Tens of thousands of women receive a breast cancer diagnosis each year. It’s a devastating situation, one that holds an uncertain future. Yet medical science has come a long way, and there are new advancements that help doctors spot this disease earlier than ever before. A mammogram continues to be the most popular procedure for detecting this condition, and for women who have never had one, it can be a frightening experience. Here are some tips and information on what a mammogram entails and how to best prepare for one.
Who Needs a Mammogram?
Most women go in for their first mammogram when they’re 40 years old. Of course, there are exceptions to this, especially if a lady has more risk factors to consider. Besides age, family history is crucial, which is why ladies need to be transparent with their general practitioners. The more they know about family and medical history, the better they can guide their patients on when to go in for an exam. Even lifestyles and specific medical conditions can increase a woman’s likelihood of developing the disease. Therefore, some women need a test before age 40, while others can wait. It’s also important that girls learn how to perform a self check on themselves, starting when they’re teenagers. This involves using two fingers to feel around the breast tissue for new or changing lumps. A doctor can help with this, too.
The Mammography Process
Breast cancer screening in Singapore and around the world focuses on mammograms or X-ray pictures of the breast. During the exam, the patient stands in front of a specialised X-ray machine with their chest facing it. The breasts sit on a plate, and then a second plate goes on top, nestling the breasts in between. This allows for the X-ray to take place. Since no two bodies are alike, no two test results will look the same. Still, doctors know what to look for when going through mammogram results. Typically, cancer appears as a white spot on the X-ray, although false diagnoses do happen. This is one of the considerations to keep in mind; a false reading can lead to unnecessary surgery. So, how do doctors know when it’s a false alarm? These experts do everything in their power to get the diagnosis 100% correct. This includes additional tests and samples, and maybe even a visit to a specialist.
It’s wise for women to schedule their mammogram appointment for when they aren’t on or close to their period. Menstruation can make the breasts swollen and tender and can make the test painful or lead to incorrect readings. They should also avoid deodorant, as that can leave erroneous white spots on the X-ray. It’s normal to feel some discomfort, and it’s not uncommon for some ladies to experience a bit of pain, but a mammogram shouldn’t be a traumatising experience. Trained radiologists and doctors work with this equipment all day, every day, and their job is to make patients feel as comfortable as possible. Considering that this test saves lives every year, a bit of squeezing and pinching is well worth it.