5 things to consider before getting a mammogram

You resolved to get your annual mammogram this year. Good for you!

If you’ve never had a mammogram before or maybe just need a refresher, there are a few things you should keep in mind before scheduling.

Mammograms  – X-ray images of your breast used to screen for breast cancer – are essential in the early detection of breast cancer and play a pivotal role in decreasing breast cancer deaths.

“A mammogram is the best way to find small, curable breast cancers before you or your doctor can feel them,” said Dr. Jackie Sweeney, medical director of the St. Elizabeth Breast Center.


Here, Sweeney shares five things women should consider before going in for a mammogram:

1. Don’t schedule your mammogram until after your period.

In order to get the most comprehensive pictures of your breast tissue possible, X-ray technicians must compress your breasts during mammograms, which can be uncomfortable. Scheduling your mammogram for after your period is over ““ as opposed to before ““ will help cut down on breast sensitivity.

Also, if your breasts are especially sensitive, Sweeney recommends taking an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, before your mammogram so you can better tolerate the compression.

2. Your mammogram should be covered by insurance.

Right now, Sweeney said, if you’re 40 or older, your screening mammogram should be paid for under most insurance plans. That could change, though, so you should double-check with your insurance provider.

3. You shouldn’t be overly concerned about radiation exposure.

Screening mammograms are extremely low-dose exams, Sweeney said. In fact, the amount of radiation you receive flying on a plane is not far from what you receive during a mammogram.

And, the more X-ray technicians compress your breast, in fact, the less radiation you receive.

“We’re not trying to hurt anyone, but the more compression we get, the less radiation dose the patient receives, and the easier it is for us to find cancers,” Sweeney said.

Of course, all radiation does add up, though.

“That’s why we don’t do much mammography in women under 30,” Sweeney said. “Studies have shown younger women’s breasts are much more susceptible to radiation exposure.”

4. Bring your prior mammogram pictures with you.

It’s worth waiting a few days or a week to have your old mammogram pictures sent to a new facility.

“Mammography is all about looking for changes in the breast tissue,” Sweeney said. “Having your prior pictures from other hospitals or mobiles could keep you from having a biopsy or additional pictures taken you don’t need.”

5. Don’t wear deodorant or other lotions.

Crystals in deodorants, powders, lotions, creams and perfumes can actually show up on mammograms and create confusion.

But don’t worry about having to go through the rest of your day without: Most mammogram facilities have deodorant and other toiletry items on-hand that you can use after your procedure.


What happens next?

“If you do receive a call after a screening mammogram, remember that most of the time it’s just because the radiologist needs to separate some normal overlying breast tissue,” Sweeney said. “Although the situation can be stressful, it likely doesn’t mean you have a cancer.”

St. Elizabeth Healthcare deploys a mobile mammography unit to locations where you live, work and play.  Click here for a complete listing of locations throughout the month.   To register for a screening, you can call (859) 655-7400.

Or,  schedule a Power Lunch with St. Elizabeth Healthcare. You can check a mammogram off your to-do list, catch up with friends, and get the latest women’s health news – all in the same afternoon. Click the button below to learn more.


chronic cancer