Secrets of Mammography

How to get your best mammogram every time

1. Always bring your last mammogram with you if you are going to a new facility. This will give you the best chance of not being called back. If the doctor knows you have had a mammogram they are going to want to see the pictures. Not the reports, the pictures.

2. Take whatever over-the-counter pain medication you take for discomfort one to two hours before your study and decide for yourself if this helps you.

3. It will make no difference at all if you consume caffeine the day of your appointment. Go ahead and enjoy your coffee.

4. Try and schedule your mammogram about a week after your menstrual cycle starts. You should be retaining the least amount of extra fluid at this time. If you canít schedule at this time, donít worry. It may be a little more uncomfortable, but it will not affect the results. This is simply a tip for comfort.

5. Tolerate the 5 to 6 second discomfort for each of the 4 pictures. A tighter compression = less radiation and a more accurate reading. Really! Modern machines have an automatic stop feature that wonít allow a technologist to compress beyond a certain point. That does not mean it is comfortable, it means the machine will not compress to the point of harming your breasts. Modern machines also automatically lift the compression device if the electricity goes off, so no one is stuck in a mammogram machine. Stories you hear otherwise are just that, stories.

6. Show up 10 minutes early. A screening mammogram takes approximately 10 minutes once you are in the room with the machine. Most facilities schedule a screening mammogram every 15 to 20 minutes. If you are 30 minutes late, you have missed your appointment.

7. Bring your referral from your doctor, donít leave it at home. This will only complicate things and keep your appointment from being quick and easy.

8. Donít be afraid to do a breast self-exam. You actually know your breasts better than your doctor who sees them once or twice a year. Serious problems are easier to find than you would think. During a shower when you have soap on your hands examine your breasts. Donít let the breast self exam cards scare you into thinking itís too complicated. Just start doing it. Youíll get better at it.

9. Make sure you leave good contact numbers with the front desk so you can be reached, and remember a call back is not a medical emergency. Having a recall appointment the next day or the next week will not affect an outcome.

10. In mammography there is only one emergency, a breast abscess (infection). This is painful and you need to have an aspiration or get on antibiotics as soon as possible. Contact your doctor if you have symptoms.

11. If you are disabled or need extra assistance, share that at the time of making your appointment. Request a double appointment slot. Most facilities are happy to arrange this for their patients.

12. Do not wear large earrings and necklaces the day of your appointment. Try and wear a 2-piece outfit to make it easier for you. (You donít have to take off your watch during the examination.)

13. You can put on deodorant the day of your appointment, especially if your appointment is at the end of the day. You donít have to be uncomfortable all day. Just remember to wipe it off before the exam. Most facilities provide wipes for just this reason.

14. Put your cell phone on vibrate when you are getting your mammogram, or, if you forget, please donít try and answer it.

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