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Many women find mammograms uncomfortable, leading some women to delay their mammograms or avoid them.
But mammograms are proven to save lives. So, what can women do to make it less anxiety-riddled?
Dr. Meghan Musser, radiologist at Kettering Health and medical director of Kettering Breast Evaluation Centers, shares what you need to know for before, during, and after your mammogram to make the process as comfortable as possible.
Scheduling your appointment
Dr. Musser suggests thinking first about the timing of the appointment.
Women who are 40 or older don’t need a physician’s order to schedule your mammogram. Instead, they can self-refer, which makes can make scheduling a quicker process.
Regardless of whether you self-refer or have a physician’s order, Dr. Musser encourages women to wait 7-10 days after their period.
“Some women experience breast tenderness around their menstrual cycle,” Dr. Musser says. “If that is something you’ve noticed, we recommend you schedule at a different time during the month to minimize the discomfort you’re already feeling in your breast.”
Preparing for your appointment
Consider also what you wear that day.
Dr. Musser encourages patients not to wear deodorant or antiperspirant to their screening mammogram. It can appear as white spots in your images that can cause concern.
Women should also consider wearing a two-piece outfit—avoid dresses or jumpers. This will make it easier to wear a patient gown.
And what should you eat that day?
Dr. Musser says to eat what you normally would.
As for caffeine, the less caffeine before the appointment, the better. She says studies have shown a connection between caffeine intake and breast pain.
“If women have breast pain consistently and they consume a lot of caffeine, they can try to reduce their caffeine intake and see if that breast pain improves,” she says.
And it’s best to ramp down your caffeine intake well before your mammogram.
“It is not something you could cut out right before your mammogram and see a difference. This would be a sustained change someone would need to make.”
During and after your appointment
The appointment should take around 15 minutes.
“They are fast appointments,” Dr. Musser says. “It’s short and important for your health. Taking the time to do it is very important.”
It’s normal to feel anxious before your mammogram appointment. And most come back negative. Your technologist recognizes you don’t want to be there, but that you’re taking a huge step for your health. They will be with you every step of the way, working to make your appointment a positive experience.
“We call back a very small percentage of patients,” she says. “Even though it can be a scary process, we try to make it as smooth and painless as possible to get you in and out of our centers.”
What if you are called back? A call back can be to look at something further that may not be cancer. But a closer look is needed. The tech will take more images for a radiologist to review. And you’ll receive results before you leave the breast center.