What Is A Diagnostic Mammogram And Why They Are Important

What is a diagnostic mammogram, and what is the importance as part of women's health care? How an empowered approach can lessen anxiety for this important procedure.

Early detection is one of the most important factors in the fight against breast cancer, and a mammogram, in combination with a yearly doctor's exam and monthly breast self-exam, makes it easier than ever for early breast cancer detection and survival.

Most women should consult their physician for a screening mammogram after age 35 and then every year or so as advised by their doctor. Most doctors advise yearly mammograms for women over 40 and it is important to notify your doctor right away if you feel anything unusual in your breasts during the monthly self exam. Many lumps are nothing to worry about, but only a doctor can determine which are harmless and which require attention.

The first mammogram a physician usually prescribes for a woman usually is a regular screening mammogram, in which usually two x-ray views are taken of each breast. The best time to do that would be about 7 days after your period, as breasts are less tender after this time. After receiving a prescription for a mammogram from your doctor, and making an appointment at the imagine center or hospital, there are a few things you can do to prepare.



First is to try relaxing. A mammogram does not "make something wrong", it helps find if there is anything to be taken care of. The only fear should be of not taking advantage of this early detection tool. Use positive imagery and be proud that you are taking an active role in your health.

On the day of your mammogram, do not use deodorant or antiperspirant, as many contain aluminum, which could distort your x-ray. Some recommend using some rubbing alcohol as an antiperspirant. You will have to remove any necklaces. Also wearing a two-piece outfit will make it easier to slip in and out of for the procedure.

Many stories are spread about the mammogram being "painful". This relates to the compression of the breast against the imaging plate. The degree of discomfort that is experienced varies but some recommend taking an aspirin or other pain reliever an hour before to help soreness. Keep in mind; the discomfort is a small price to pay for this life saving procedure. Mammography technicians are specially trained to do the procedure, so they will make it as easy as possible. Using the relaxation techniques learned in the preparation phase will help immensely.

The procedure only takes a few moments, and do not be alarmed if you are asked to take additional views after the tech has developed the film. They have to be sure that a clear picture to show to the doctor (usually a radiologist) who will make a report and send it back to your doctor and they will decide if any additional films or perhaps and ultrasound is needed. Many reports come back normal, but it is not uncommon to have to return for additional imaging or other procedures if needed. Remember, most abnormalities like cysts are not cancer, and if it turns out to be cancer, early detection is your best defense. Getting a mammogram isn't fun, but as it saves lives, you have nothing to fear but fear itself.

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