Just like a Pap smear, most people will be encouraged to undergo mammography regularly throughout their lives. But for most people who have never undergone breast screening before, anticipating the first mammogram test can be a rather unpleasant experience.
Ignorance about what happened during the procedure and what must be prepared is often a strong reason for some women to always delay their first mammography test. To help calm the mind, here are a number of things you need to know before undergoing mammography for the first time.
What you need to know about the first mammography test
1. Pregnant and lactating mothers are prohibited from joining mammography
Before undergoing the first mammogram, make sure you tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suspect you are pregnant. Mammograms will not be performed on women with this condition. Instead, the doctor will suggest other scanning techniques - such as ultrasound (USG).
2. Schedule a mammography a week after your menstruation
If your doctor has advised you to undergo mammography, schedule your mammogram when your breasts are not swollen or hardened. It aims to reduce the pain that may be present during your test, and also to get a quality scan. As much as possible avoid mammograms a week before and during your menstruation.
3. Don't use deodorant, perfume, powder, or body lotion
Avoid using deodorants, talcum powder, body lotions, creams or perfumes in the armpit or around the breast before leaving for the test. Particles of foreign substances or metals contained in these products can appear on X-rays as white spots like calcification or calcium buildup which can confuse doctors when reading the results. That's why it's better to have your mammogram the first time in the morning. You can apply deodorant after the test is complete if you will continue other activities afterwards.
4. You will be required to bare from the waist up
Unscrewing from the waist up - yes, also including a bra - is an important step to get clear images. Any material other than breast tissue that appears on the X-ray results will obscure the details and make the image useless.
That's why you might find it easier to wear a skirt or pants, so you will only take off your boss and bra during mammography. You will get a hospital gown instead, while still wearing your subordinates and footwear. And take it easy, only you and the technician (always female) are in the test room during a mammogram.
5. Your breasts will be handled directly by someone else
Basically, mammography is an x-ray for the chest. Thus, you will be in a situation that requires your breasts to be seen and handled directly by others. To get a clear scan result, each breast needs to be pressed. And depending on hospital facilities, you may be asked to stand or sit during a mammogram.
The technician will then place your breasts on the iron plate installed on the mammogram machine. The top plate is lowered to suppress your breasts for approximately 10 seconds when the technician takes pictures. Each breast needs to be scanned twice, once from top to bottom and again from side to side.
The iron plate grip must be firm to flatten your breasts to prevent the breasts from loosening and moving, to avoid blurry images. You may be required to hold your breath every time you take a picture.
6. Mammography can be painful when - but only briefly
You may feel temporary discomfort when your breasts are pressed, and for some women this can be painful. The purpose of the pressed breast is to spread breast tissue as thin as possible to get a clear scan result.
Tell the technician if you are in pain. Also, consider taking non-prescription pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or paracetamol about one hour before a mammogram to help reduce pain or discomfort in your breast during mammography.
7. Breast scans can be repeated several times
The duration of the mammography test from the beginning to the end is usually only about 20-30 minutes. After that, you can clean up and continue your daily activities.
However, the technician may also repeat the procedure to take several additional pictures if the existing results are less clear or the doctor needs further examination. Don't panic, repetition like this is common.
8. Can you get radiation from a mammogram?
Mammograms use low-dose X-rays to take detailed images of breast tissue. That is, it's possible for you to have radiation side effects - even if it's low and almost nothing to worry about.
"Every radiation exposure comes with a small risk, but it is much lower than the risk of not getting a test," explained Sue Oliver, head of the Mammography and Rontgen Security division at Nuffied Hospital, reported by The Huffington Post.
9. The results can be known as soon as possible
Although most women who come for breast screening are not known to have cancer - about 96 of the 100 women tested get normal results - if you don't hear from your health care provider in about 10 days, don't assume that your mammogram is normal; contact your hospital or the facility where the mammogram is conducted to find out exactly when you can know the results of your mammogram.
Usually, a complete report of your mammography results will be sent to your doctor (and you may also get a copy in a more understandable version) within 30 days - or "as soon as possible" if the results indicate cancer .
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