Although recent studies have offered varying opinions on what age a woman should begin getting mammograms, many medical professionals suggest to start testing at age 40. Visit with your doctor to discuss the best option for you. No matter the age, if it’s your first scan, you likely don’t know what to expect.

Rest assured. We’re here to help you prepare for your first mammogram with a few ideas of what you can expect before, during and after your scan. Here’s what you should know:

Before your appointment

  • Wear a two-piece outfit so you only have to remove your top. You will receive a gown to wear throughout the scan.
  • If a doctor ordered the mammogram, bring the name, address and phone number of the physician’s office so the facility can send the doctor your report.

During your appointment

  • The scan typically takes 15 – 30 minutes. While it can be uncomfortable, getting a comprehensive scan is very important. It allows the breast tissue to spread and flatten. This ensures a clear view of the breast and reduces the amount of radiation needed to make an image.
  • It’s important to do as the radiology tech says (hold still when they say, hold your breath when they say, etc.) throughout the scan. This allows for the radiology tech to get the clearest view possible.

After your appointment

  • The radiology tech will not be able to tell you anything about your results the day of your scan. The results need to be read by a radiologist, which can take anywhere from a few days up to a week.
  • The radiology office will contact you (typically by mail or phone) with your results.
  • Sometimes suspicious findings are found from your first mammogram. That’s often because your doctor doesn’t have previous scan results for comparison. As a result, you may be asked to go back in for another scan. Don’t always assume the worst. Sometimes the radiologist just needs a better view.
  • Save your results from your mammograms and take them to your doctor to review after each scan.
  • Schedule your next mammogram. Check with your insurance provider first to see how often your plan allows a mammogram to be performed.

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, schedule your mammogram today. Mammograms save lives. For most women, it is the best way to find breast cancer as early as possible. In addition to getting a mammogram, a simple way to check for lumps on your own is to perform monthly self breast exams. For tips on how to perform a self breast exam, check out this WebMD article.

Under age 40?

If you are under age 40 and have concerns or other risk factors for breast cancer (such as a family history of breast cancer), speak with your doctor about scheduling a mammogram sooner.

By learning how to prepare for and what to expect from this cancer screening exam, you can eliminate some of the stress and make your experience less worrisome.

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