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Your First Mammogram? What you should know.  



Purpose of a mammogram: A mammogram is a specialized X-ray of the breasts used to detect and diagnose breast cancer. It can detect changes in breast tissue, including small tumors that may not be felt during a breast exam.

Age and frequency: Mammograms are recommended for women yearly, starting at 40. However, the recommended age may vary depending on family history or personal risk factors. Your doctor can guide you on when to start and how often to have mammograms.

Preparation: No special preparation is required for a mammogram. Deodorant can be worn. You will be asked to undress from the waist up, so wearing a two-piece outfit can make the process more convenient.

Discomfort and pain: Mammograms can be uncomfortable or mildly painful for some women. The compression of the breasts during the procedure is necessary to obtain the most diagnostic images. The discomfort usually lasts only for a few moments. A total of 4 images are obtained, 2 per breast, each view requiring the breast to be in compression for only about 10 seconds each. Communicating any concerns or discomfort to the technologist performing the mammogram is important to ensure the best images possible and the most accurate mammogram.

Radiation exposure: Mammograms use low-dose radiation, and the risk of radiation exposure is minimal. A typical mammogram with two views of each breast is about 0.4 mSv; People in the United States are typically exposed to about 3 mSv of radiation each year just from natural surroundings. The benefits of detecting breast cancer at an early stage outweigh the negligible risks associated with radiation exposure.

Breast density: Each time you have a mammogram, your report will indicate your density as DENSE or NOT DENSE. Dense tissue on a mammogram can make it more challenging to detect cancer and is an independent risk factor for breast cancer, putting patients with dense tissue at a higher risk of breast cancer in their lifetime. Your healthcare provider may suggest you have additional imaging, such as ultrasound.

Follow-up procedures: If an abnormality is found on your mammogram, further testing may be required, such as additional mammographic views or an ultrasound. It is important to remember that most abnormalities are benign, but additional testing is needed to confirm.

Emotional aspects: For some women, undergoing a mammogram may evoke anxiety or fear related to the possibility of finding breast cancer. It is natural to have these concerns, but it is important to remember that mammograms are crucial for early detection and improving outcomes. Discussing your concerns with your healthcare provider can provide reassurance and support if you feel anxious.  

Results: At Elizabeth Wende Breast Care, you will receive your screening results by text or email the same day. 

Remember, a mammogram is a crucial screening test for early detection of breast cancer. Before your first mammogram, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider about your individual risk factors, screening recommendations, and any specific instructions or concerns. 

Woman getting breast exam

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