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It’s normal to feel a bit of anxiety creep in with the thought of getting a mammogram, especially if you haven’t had one before. However, mammograms are proven to be the best screening for early diagnosis of breast cancer. For this reason, it’s vital not to let anxiety stop you from getting one done.
If you are age 40 or older, you should be scheduling a mammogram annually. And if you have particular risk factors for breast cancer, you may even need to begin them earlier—something you and your doctor can determine. Unfortunately, some women don’t follow this recommendation due to fear. Dr. Meghan Musser, a radiologist at Kettering Health and medical director of Kettering Health Breast Centers, addresses some of the most common concerns so you can confidently and regularly attend mammogram appointments.
“I’m afraid it will hurt.”
According to Dr. Musser, one of the most common fears women have is that their mammogram is going to hurt. For some patients, mammograms aren’t comfortable, but there are steps you can take to reduce any potential pain.
If you notice increased breast pain or tenderness during your menstrual cycle, schedule your mammogram at other times of the month so that it doesn’t coincide with your period.
When you do go in for your appointment, don’t be afraid to speak up.
“Give feedback to the technologist in the room with you,” says Dr. Musser. “They will be able to help with positioning to get you as comfortable as possible.”
“I’m embarrassed about being unclothed.”
Because of the nature of mammography, women are required to undress to some degree, but it’s important to keep in mind why you and the person administering the test are there.
“We strive to treat every patient with the utmost respect,” Dr. Musser says. “While being unclothed is not comfortable, we aim to create a comfortable and professional environment.”
Patients are only asked to expose one breast at a time during the mammogram and are able to keep the rest of themselves covered.
“I’m anxious about radiation exposure.”
It’s true that there is radiation with every mammogram; however, the amount to which you are exposed is extremely small.
“The amount of radiation per mammogram is equivalent to about seven weeks of normal radiation we are exposed to just from the atmosphere,” Dr. Musser says. “It’s a very small amount of radiation and highly regulated to make sure the levels are safe.”
“I don’t want to receive poor results.”
It’s very understandable that a woman wouldn’t want to find out she has breast cancer. However, mammograms are the best way to detect cancers early.
Mammograms are essential to detecting cancer early if there’s anything to detect at all. Most of the time, only about 10% of patients get called back after a mammogram, and an even smaller percentage of those called back actually have an abnormality such as cancer.
“Our goal is to find cancers at their earliest stage,” Dr. Musser says. “We understand the fear of an abnormal result, but our goal is to try and find cancer when it’s small, so you would need the least amount of surgery or treatment and would have the best possible outcome.”
With advanced technology, Kettering Health provides an environment of comfort and healing for women receiving mammograms. With the new sensory suite, you are given an interactive experience in which you choose the sights and sounds used to create an ambiance of relaxation. Pristina mammography units offer additional comfort during compression, using Dueta technology, which puts the power of mammography back in your hands. With patient-assisted compression, you finish your mammogram, making you feel more in control.
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