How to Prepare for a Mammogram 


Are you taking proactive steps to maintain your breast health? According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. With an estimated 43,700 deaths per year, early detection is key to successful treatment. That’s why we offer mammograms at Hodgeman County Health Center to help women detect breast cancer early.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of breast cancer screening and the benefits of mammography, how often to get a mammogram, what to expect during the procedure, and how to interpret the results.

What is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is a medical imaging test that uses low-dose X-rays to produce images of breast tissue. Mammograms detect early signs of breast cancer, such as lumps, calcifications, and changes in breast tissue density, that cannot be felt during a physical exam.

There are two types of mammograms:

  1. Screening mammograms are routine tests performed on women with no symptoms or signs of breast cancer.
  2. Diagnostic mammograms are used for women who have breast symptoms, such as a lump or nipple discharge, or for those with abnormal findings on a screening mammogram.

Importance of Mammograms

Mammograms are essential tools in the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. Breast cancer can develop without symptoms, making it difficult to detect without imaging tests such as mammograms.

The incidence of breast cancer increases with age, with most cases diagnosed in women over 50. However, breast cancer can also occur in younger women, and about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives.

What are the Benefits of Mammograms?

1. Increased treatment options:

Early detection can provide more treatment options, including the possibility of breast-conserving surgery rather than mastectomy.

2. Improved survival rates:

Studies have shown that early detection through mammography can increase the chances of survival from breast cancer.

3. Reduced treatment costs:

Early detection can reduce the need for more aggressive and costly treatments, which can help lower overall healthcare costs.

When and How Often to Get a Mammogram:

The American Cancer Society recommends that women with an average risk of breast cancer should start getting mammograms at age 40 and continue to get them annually. Women with a higher risk of breast cancer may need to start screening earlier and more frequently and should discuss their risk factors with their healthcare provider.

Guidelines for mammogram screening typically include the following:

  • Mammograms every one to two years for women aged 50-74.
  • Mammograms for women at higher risk of breast cancer may begin at an earlier age and be performed more frequently.
  • Women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may need to start screening earlier and more frequently. Additionally, alternative screening options, such as breast MRI or ultrasound, exist for women with dense breast tissue or other factors that may make mammography less effective.

Preparing for a Mammogram: What to Expect

To prepare for a mammogram, women should:

  • Wear comfortable clothing that is easy to remove from the waist up.
  • Avoid using deodorants, lotions, or powders on the day of the exam, as they can interfere with the mammogram results.
  • Notify the healthcare provider if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, as mammography is not recommended during pregnancy.

During the mammogram, the woman will stand before the mammography machine, and the breast will be compressed between two plates to create a clear image. This compression can cause discomfort or pain but only lasts a few seconds. The mammogram itself takes only a few minutes to complete.

To manage discomfort or pain during the procedure, women can:

  • Schedule the mammogram when their breasts are least tender, usually a week after their menstrual period. 
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen before the mammogram. 
  • Let the mammography technologist know if they experience pain during the procedure, as adjustments can be made to reduce discomfort.

Mammogram Results: What Do They Mean?

After a mammogram, the results are typically sent to the healthcare provider who ordered the test. Women need to understand their mammogram results and any follow-up procedures that may be necessary.

Understanding Mammogram Results

Mammogram results are usually reported using a Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) score, which ranges from 0 to 6. A score of 0 means additional imaging or testing is needed, while a score of 6 indicates a biopsy-proven malignancy.

Types of Mammogram Findings

There are several types of mammogram findings, including:

  • Normal: The mammogram shows no signs of breast cancer or other abnormalities.
  • Benign: The mammogram shows noncancerous changes in the breast tissue, such as cysts or calcifications.
  • Suspicious: The mammogram shows an abnormality that may be cancerous and requires further testing.
  • Malignant: The mammogram shows signs of breast cancer.

Follow-up Procedures based on Results

If a mammogram shows an abnormality, follow-up procedures may include:

  • Biopsies and further testing: A biopsy may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the cancer.
  • Treatment options for breast cancer: Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy.
  • Coping with diagnosis and treatment: A breast cancer diagnosis can be challenging to cope with, and women may benefit from support groups, counseling, or other resources.

It’s important for women to follow up with their healthcare provider promptly after a mammogram and to discuss any abnormal results and follow-up procedures.

Tips for Maintaining Breast Health

Breast health is important for women of all ages, and there are several steps women can take to maintain healthy breasts and reduce their risk of breast cancer.

These steps include:

A. Self-examination techniques

Breast self-examination can help women become familiar with their breasts’ normal look and feel, making it easier to detect any changes. Women should perform a breast self-exam at least once a month, ideally a few days after their period ends. Women should contact their healthcare provider promptly if any changes or abnormalities are detected.

B. Lifestyle changes to reduce breast cancer risk

There are several lifestyle changes women can make to reduce their risk of breast cancer, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer, particularly after menopause.
  • Regular exercise: Regular exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer and other health benefits.
  • Eating a healthy diet: A diet rich in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Limiting alcohol intake: Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, and women should limit their intake to one drink per day or less.

C. Regular check-ups and screenings

Regular check-ups and screenings are important for maintaining breast health. Women with a high risk of breast cancer may need more frequent screenings, and alternative screening options may be recommended based on individual risk factors.

Radiology Services Available in Jetmore, Kansas

If you need to have a mammogram or have questions about the radiology services offered at Hodgeman County Health Center, our team will take your call!

You can connect with us by calling our office or scheduling an appointment online today!

To schedule a time or for any further questions, please call: 620-357-8361

Written by Abraham

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