Here's Everything You Need to Know As a Woman About Mammograms
Like when you should start getting them.
Here are some facts about Breast Cancer.
- 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in her lifetime.
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
- It's the second leading cause of death among women.
- Over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors are in the United States today.
The best way to fight breast cancer is early screening and better detection. Enter: mammograms.
WHAT IS A MAMMOGRAM?
According to Women's Health, "A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray exam of the breasts to look for changes that are not normal. The results are recorded on x-ray film or directly into a computer for a doctor called a radiologist to examine.
A mammogram allows the doctor to have a closer look for changes in breast tissue that cannot be felt during a breast exam. It is used for women who have no breast complaints and for women who have breast symptoms, such as a change in the shape or size of a breast, a lump, nipple discharge, or pain. Breast changes occur in almost all women. In fact, most of these changes are not cancer and are called "benign," but only a doctor can know for sure. Breast changes can also happen monthly, due to your menstrual period."
Does it matter if you have breast implants?
Short answer: nope, you're all good! While the implant can hide some breast tissue, you are still able to (and should) get a perfectly effective mammogram.
WHEN SHOULD YOU GET ONE?
For most women, regular mammograms can start at age 45-50. Why not earlier? According to the Stop Cancer Fund, "remember that mammograms expose women to radiation, which can increase the risk of breast cancer. Experts believe that less frequent mammograms also means a lower false alarm rate, and that means fewer unnecessary tests, anxiety, and possibly fewer unnecessary surgeries."
Once you're 55, you should be getting them every other year.
If breast cancer runs in your family, it is recommended that you start at age 25-30. Early detection and screening is vital.
HOW DO I PREP FOR ONE?
If you are still having menstrual periods, try to avoid making your mammogram appointment during the week before your period. Your breasts will be less tender and swollen. The mammogram will hurt less and the picture will be better.
If you have breast implants, be sure to tell your mammography facility that you have them when you make your appointment.
Wear a shirt with shorts, pants, or a skirt. This way, you can undress from the waist up and leave your shorts, pants, or skirt on when you get your mammogram.
Don't wear any deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder under your arms or on your breasts on the day of your mammogram appointment. These things can make shadows show up on your mammogram.
If you have had mammograms at another facility, have those x-ray films sent to the new facility so that they can be compared to the new films.
Via Women's Health
WHAT OCCURS DURING A MAMMOGRAM?
Via Women's Health: You stand in front of a special x-ray machine.
The person who takes the x-rays, called a radiologic technician, places your breasts, one at a time, between an x-ray plate and a plastic plate.
These plates are attached to the x-ray machine and compress the breasts to flatten them.
This spreads the breast tissue out to obtain a clearer picture.
You will feel pressure on your breast for a few seconds. It may cause you some discomfort; you might feel squeezed or pinched. This feeling only lasts for a few seconds, and the flatter your breast, the better the picture.
Most often, two pictures are taken of each breast — one from the side and one from above. A screening mammogram takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.
WHAT WILL DOCTORS LOOK FOR?
Typically, everything will be A-OK. But your doctor will be on the lookout for:
A Lump or mass. The size, shape, and edges of a lump sometimes can give doctors information about whether or not it may be cancer. On a mammogram, a growth that is benign often looks smooth and round with a clear, defined edge. Breast cancer often has a jagged outline and an irregular shape.
A Calcification. A calcification is a deposit of the mineral calcium in the breast tissue. Calcifications appear as small white spots on a mammogram.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD BE DOING FOR MY BOOBS?
Yes! A breast self exam. Cosmo Magazine breaks it down:
Step 1: Stand in front of a mirror topless, shoulders straight, arms down at your sides. View each breast in the mirror, as well as directly by looking down at them, and make sure there's no swelling, redness, puckering, and/or dimpling of the skin.
Step 2: Raise your arms over your head and check for the same signs again along the skin. (With your arms up, breast irregularities may be easier to see.)
Step 3: Squeeze each nipple gently, making sure no fluid or blood comes out.
Step 4: Keep your first few fingers flat and together, and use a firm touch to check for any lumps, bumps or bulges. Begin at the nipple and move in larger and larger circles until you reach your cleavage and chest as well as your underarm, where many cancers begin.
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