Mammograms are an important screening test for women, especially those age 40 or older, and for women at any age who are at increased risk for breast cancer.
Mammography, the “gold standard” in breast cancer detection, is a low-dose X-ray exam of the breasts that can detect approximately 85 percent of all breast cancers, often before a lump can be felt.
Detecting breast cancer early — when it’s most responsive to treatment — saves lives.
Let’s be truthful here, nobody thinks the mammography experience is fun. Some women say it’s uncomfortable, and for a small number of women it can be painful, especially those with large or dense breasts.
But don’t let fear deter you from getting your annual exam. Here are 10 tips to help you sail through your next mammogram with ease.
Timing is everything
If you’re premenopausal and experience breast tenderness or swelling a week prior to your menstrual period or the week after, schedule your appointment around that time. Most experts say the ideal time for the test is about 10 days from the start of your period.
Set aside your caffeinated beverages for about a week before your next mammogram. Caffeine can cause breast tenderness (for example, if it’s painful to hug). Opt for caffeine-free soft drinks, decaf coffee or herbal teas instead.
Hint: Some chocolates also contain caffeine.
Consider OTC Pain relievers
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Advil, Motrin, Tylenol, can help ease pain. It's best to take the pain reliever about one hour before the exam. For safety, be sure to talk to your doctor about taking any medications.
Hint: Read the label before taking any pain medication the week prior to your exam to be sure it doesn’t contain caffeine.
Don’t be shy. During the test, tell the technician if you are experiencing pain. Something as easy as repositioning the breast can ease the discomfort. Foam pads may also be available for a small additional charge.