When you reach a certain age, doctors will recommend a mammogram as a screening test. The risk of developing breast cancer goes higher as women grow older.
In Australian women, breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer. On a positive note, they have one of the highest breast cancer survival rates among all countries. Early diagnosis through screening and improved treatment is a key factor attributing to this statistic.
Mammograms can either be preventative or diagnostic. Experts recommend screening tests for women between the ages of 50 and 74 every two years. If you have a lump or any other irregularity in your breast, your doctor might recommend a diagnostic procedure.
Benefits vs. Risks: Why Should I Get a Mammogram?
The significant risk of this procedure, whether for screening or diagnostic purposes, is the exposure to a low dose of radiation from x-rays. However, the benefits of early detection are higher than this danger.
- Screening lowers the risk of death due to breast cancer.
- Mammograms help doctors detect slight tumours. While small, women have more options for treatment.
Must-Know Information: How Is It Done?
Standing in front of an x-ray machine, a technician will position your breast on a plate. Another plate flattens your chest to hold it still while the machine takes the x-ray. The technician repeats the steps to get different views of the breast. Your other breast will also get the same treatment.
If you experience significant discomfort or pain, the technician may lower the pressure from the machine. However, remember that breast compression is necessary to get results with higher quality.
The whole procedure takes about 30 minutes to finish.
Health Tips: What Should I Expect?
Regardless if it’s your first time or not, understanding the procedure may help it go more smoothly.
- Some women feel discomfort with the process. Schedule it a week before you get your period, as your breasts may be more sensitive during that time.
- Powder, perfume, or deodorant products can display as spots on the results of the x-ray, causing a false-positive effect. Avoid using them on the day of your appointment.
- Consider wearing a top with pants or a skirt instead of a dress as you will need to take off your clothes from the waist up.
- Your doctor will make a more accurate diagnosis when comparing your mammogram If you have a choice, try to go to the same clinic or hospital every session from year to year.
- Facilities usually take a few weeks to generate results from the procedure.
- If your results are typical, continue to get mammograms as your health care provider recommends. Remember that this procedure is for screening purposes and will help detect irregularities early.
- If your results are abnormal, you will need to have additional tests done before the doctor can confirm you have cancer.
Like other medical procedures, you may feel some anxiety. However, knowing what to expect will go a long way in easing your nervousness. So don’t be afraid and schedule your mammogram appointment as soon as you can.