What I Learned From My First Mammogram
So you've reached that magical age where yearly mammograms are now a thing and the first one is fast approaching. Relax. It's not as bad as you may think – but there are some things for which you should prepare.
Last January, I had my very first mammogram and luckily for me, my mother was a mammogram tech for nearly 30 years. She gave me the inside scoop on what to expect and how to make the visit the best it could be. Like most motherly advice, she was spot on. So I'm sharing her inside secrets with you, too.
The Most Important Thing to Know
First and foremost is when to schedule your exam. Do yourself a massive favor and do not schedule your mammogram during your period. If it is "that time of the month," then pick another time for your mammogram. You may be thinking, what do my breasts have to do with my period? Well, your breasts get much more sensitive and tender when you are menstruating, certainly not the time to be pressing them flat between two plastic plates. So whatever you do, do not get a mammogram during your period.
Before Your Exam
Prepping yourself before the appointment is important, too. You are not allowed to use lotions, deodorants, powders or perfumes prior to your test. Your skin must be completely clean and bare because any chemicals or dyes from those products could affect the machine. If you put on lotion or deodorant, the radiology tech is going to make you take it all off with a giant wet wipe, so don't bother.
During Your Exam
I know most people complain that mammograms hurt, but I honestly did not think it hurt at all. Is there pressure? Yes. Is it intense? Yes, but the feeling is not pain. If you follow my most important tip from above, you should not feel pain either.
You will, however, feel quite awkward. Mammograms are definitely awkward. You are basically standing as still as you can, hugging a giant robot with your breasts completely exposed. Very awkward. Expect to feel weird about it, but know the tech has done this thousands of times and is not concerned with judging you.
After Your Exam
Post-mammogram comes the waiting. While you may be nervous about the results, expect one thing for sure: you will very likely get called back by the radiologists for a second exam to check something out in further detail.
Your first mammogram gives doctors a first look at what your breast looks like inside. Any little anomaly is an unknown that they must follow up on. My mother warned me I should expect to have to go back for another scan and she was right. In just days, I was back at the office getting a breast ultrasound to inspect what turned out to be a cluster of fatty tissue.
Personally, I was very appreciative of my mom's inside scoop. Knowing what to expect took the stress out of the exam and expecting a call back meant I didn't freak out about my follow-up appointment. If you ask me, the less stress in life the better. I just hope I can take some away for you, too.