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Having Your First Mammogram

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

I remember going to my first dental cleaning. Back when I was 11 one of my uncles who was a dentist did all our dental work. I had just got almost all of my second set of teeth. The first time I sat in the chair and checked out what was beside me, I was absolutely terrified. There were all these stainless steel gadgets shining under the lights and the alcohol smell was making me nauseated. And mind you, this was my very first visit to the dentist! My uncle was the one who gave me my first tetanus shot too when I was 16 and pregnant. Now that was a piece of cake! He was speaking to me one minute and the next minute he said he was finished. I didn't feel a thing. When my uncle died about 16 years ago I felt sad for him but some of the memories he left in me still haunt me to this date. And that is not a nice way to remember someone you love or are even friendly with.

For most women, having their first mammogram is kind of like my own experience at the dentist. They are absolutely frightened of their breasts being compressed. There are a few facts that we need to discuss about mammograms and how important they are to us.

A mammogram is used to screen early signs of breast cancers. With the aid of mammograms thousands of women who are diagnosed in early stages are treated more effectively. For many women mammograms mean pain and discomfort at the time of examination. But few realize that it is a life saving tool. There are few measures that women could take before and after a mammogram that could increase their level of comfort and leaving a more positive attitude towards a mammogram exam the next year.

1. When scheduling for a mammogram it is always better to pick a time that is a few days after the menstrual cycle ends. When a woman's body prepares for menstruation there is a lot of fluid retention in the body including the breasts. Because of the high levels of hormones during and before the cycle breasts become very tender thus making it hard to sustain the compression during the mammogram. Scheduling a mammogram a few days after the menstrual cycle not only reduces the discomfort but actually makes the breast tissue softer so the desired compression is achieved and better films are taken.

2. Just before the mammogram some doctors advice their patients to take pain relieving medications which help during compression. Placing an ice pack right after the mammogram over the breasts helps me every time.

3. Do not have any conversations, either at home or at work, that you have scheduled your mammogram as these often lead to mostly horror stories about mammograms which leads to frustration and more tense situations at the examination time.

4. It is advisable not to take caffeine products such a coffee, sodas, chocolates and teas which increase tenderness in the breasts.

5. Do not put deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes or powders on or near the breast area before the mammograms. All these products have a certain amount of aluminum metal in them which mimic calcifications on a mammogram and that could lead to a call back of the patient the second time. This situation aggravates an already frustrated patient having to go through another exam.

6. During the compression of the breast it helps for a patient to take slow deep breaths. Taking slow deep breath relaxes the pectoral muscles which in turn relax the breast tissue thus leading to less painful compression.

7. Make sure to ask all the questions that you might have about the exam before and after the exam

8. Wear a two piece outfit so it will be easier to change into a mammography gown.

9. Make sure to bring your previous films if you are going to a different facility for your yearly mammogram. This will reduce the time it takes for the facility to send the results of the present mammogram. It is always important to have prior mammogram films for comparison.

10. Give all the information on the mammography questionnaire about family history, medical history, number of children, possibility of pregnancy, and last menstrual cycle as it helps the radiologists in interpretation.

11. Remember if there is any chance of pregnancy it is extremely important to let the technologist know about it as radiation exposure from the mammogram could harm the baby.

12. Remember, the staff, performing technologist and the radiologists are all there to help you. Your complete co-operation would help you as well as them to relax and do their job right.

13. Wait for the results for at least seven working days since that is how long it takes for the results to be sent to your doctor and mailed to you as well.

Having the first mammogram does not have to be an unpleasant experience if certain considerations are made. How a woman felt about her mammography experience could lead to her decisions for future visits for the exam and thus, effect her overall health. It is always important to remember that the total exam takes up to a half hour with preparation and paperwork but the results could save our lives forever because, OUR LIFE MATTERS

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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.