Have you postponed scheduling your first mammogram because you're anxious about what to expect?
Here's what a mammogram is like. Everyone's is different, but I have had them for 10 years in a variety of locations, so my experiences are probably pretty common.
When you go to your regular doctor, they'll give you a prescription or a lab order for a mammogram that you can take to any of various mammography sites around where you live. Usually, they are located near or in hospitals. You call and make an appointment at the mammography center.
When your appointment day comes, wear a two-piece outfit -- a blouse and pants, for instance -- instead of a dress. This means you'll only need to undress to the waist. And don't wear antiperspirant until after your mammogram.
There are usually small dressing rooms where you undress to the waist and put on a hospital gown that's open in the front. You'll then be taken to a room where the mammography machine is. A technician (I have always had female technicians) will talk you through the entire procedure; she is used to people who are slightly anxious, so don't hesitate to ask questions.
The mammography machine is a tall machine that you stand in front of. It has two small glass plates that open and close, pressing your breast tissue flatter for the mammogram as they get closer together. Your technician will help you with nestling your breast between the glass plates and tell you how to hold your posture as she gently tightens the machine. You stand slightly sideways to the machine and rest one arm on it so as to give the best picture.
Does it hurt? No, usually not. There is definitely a time where you feel the pressure and it is uncomfortable to have the tissue pressed so close together. But the time you remain like that is just seconds -- long enough for the technician to say, "OK, hold your breath," step out and press the x-ray button. She then releases the machine and the glass plates open. Sometimes another view is taken of the same breast. And then you stand back while she turns the machine and repeat the procedure on your second breast.
The whole thing -- from undressing to getting dressed again -- takes about 15 minutes, if the office is running on schedule.
After your mammogram, your technician may ask you to wait until she sees the X-rays of your breasts to tell if they got clear enough pictures. Don't be unnecessarily alarmed if after a few minutes she calls you back and asks to redo part of your mammogram. This has happened to me a few times and it did not amount to anything. I always get nervous when it happens -- does it mean she saw something on the slide?? -- but now I see how often it happens, and I know that most of the time it just means they need a better picture.
You receive your mammogram results after a radiologist reads the slides to see if there is any area of concern. If there is, it may be necessary to get a followup sonogram, an MRI, a biopsy, or just another mammogram in a few months. If your mammograms show no areas of concern, you're done for another year.
Here's the deal: Just don't hesitate, and don't be afraid. We've all had pap smears all our lives, and I'm here to say that I'd rather have a mammogram any day. It's quick, it's simple, you have friendly, trained technicians, the equipment is warm on your skin, and it could save your life. Do it!
All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.