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Nervous About Your First Mammogram? Here’s What You Can Expect

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mammogram Photo: Getty Images

Mammograms are x-rays that take images of the breast tissues. This helps see and locate normalcies and abnormalities in the anatomy of the internal tissues of the breast such as the presence of tumors, calcifications, lumps and cysts. The American Cancer Society recommends that a woman obtain her first baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 to 40. (Source: MedicineNet.com; Report Title: Mammogram; Revising Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD; URL: http://www.medicinenet.com/mammogram/article.htm)

1. Why Take a Mammogram?
The purpose of getting a mammography:
• To screen for breast cancer in women who are not showing any symptoms of the disease.
• To screen for breast cancer in women who have the symptoms.
• To determine the exact location of the suspect breast tissue so it can be removed for further testing.

2. Who Should Get a Mammogram Done?
• Women who have had a family history of cancers or are in the high risk category for cancer.
• Women over 40.
• Women who are displaying symptoms of breast cancer.

3. Do's and Don'ts Before a Screening:
• Do not use deodorants, powders and anti-perspirants on the day of the screening as the mammogram may produce hazy images.
• Jewelry around the neck, chest and ears need to be removed during the imaging procedure.
• Inform the doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have had breast implants for breast augmentation.
• You must inform the doctor if you are due or having your period (especially if you experience tender breasts prior to or during menstruation). Images may be taken within 2 weeks of starting your period.

4. What To Expect During the Test (Source: WebMD; Report Title: Mammogram; How It Is Done; Author: Sandy Jocoy, RN; URL: http://women.webmd.com/mammogram-16573?page=2 )
• The patient's breasts are placed one at a time on a flat panel. A gentle but firm pressure is applied to each breast with another panel causing them to be compressed between the two panels.
• You may be asked to stand, sit or lie on the x-ray table depending on the type of machine used for x-ray.
• The compression is not harsh and discomfort may be felt only for a few seconds of compression.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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