When it comes to screening mammograms, women make all kinds of excuses to postpone having one. We’re uncovering some of the most common ones that our mammogram technologists sometimes hear. We don’t want fear or a lack of understanding to drive decisions about your breast health.
You are doing all the right things to stay as healthy as possible, but having an annual screening mammogram is still an important part of knowing that you’re healthy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle does lower your risk for breast cancer (like it does a number of health conditions). It does not, however, eliminate your chances of getting breast cancer. 3D mammography remains the best way to detect breast cancer. We combine quality imaging with subspecialty radiologists who use artificial intelligence to aid in detect breast cancer at its earliest possible stage. You’re working to stay healthy and strong, so add an annual screening mammogram as one of your healthy habits.
Excuse #2: I’m just not comfortable with someone touching me.
Having a mammogram is a very personal experience and we recognize having someone else see you and position you for a screening can be uncomfortable. At Wake Rad UNC REX, we make these promises about having a mammogram:
- All of our mammography technologists are women.
- All of our mammography technologists are trained and certified to perform screening mammograms. In doing so, they are taught how to make a patient more comfortable and to carefully position the breast to capture the best possible image — the first time.
- All of our mammography technologists will clearly explain what is going to happen and how you can help when it comes to positioning.
- During an exam, only one breast is exposed at a time and a cloth gown (not a paper gown) will be covering your other breast and the rest of your upper body.
Don’t be concerned about your shape, size, moles, freckles or even piercings. Our technologists have seen it all and are trained to be respectful and sensitive to patient differences and modesty levels. We also encourage women to share what makes them nervous and to ask questions every step of the way. We believe that the more you know, the more comfortable you’ll be. And, most of our technologists have actually had a screening mammogram and know what it’s like to be in your shoes.
Excuse #3: A mammogram is too painful or I’ve heard it’s too painful.
Compression is an integral part of a mammogram. This part of the exam, however, only lasts a few seconds and is vital to producing the best images from the exam. Many patients are surprised that the “compression or squishing” isn’t actually as bad as they expected or stories they were told.
To make the screening more tolerable, schedule your appointment about two weeks after your menstrual cycle when your breasts are less sensitive. Some patients find it helpful to take an over-the-counter pain reliever about 45 minutes to an hour before their exam. Some patients say that caffeine makes their breasts more tender/sensitive, so you may want to reduce or cut out caffeine several days before your mammogram. Finally, we recommend patients try to relax. At Wake Rad UNC REX, your entire screening experience — from arrival to being back on your way — will take 30 minutes or less.
Excuse #4: I’m worried my doctor will find something.
It’s important to explain that screening mammograms are performed annually for women who don’t have any breast symptoms or concerns. This means that the majority of our screening mammogram patients do not have breast cancer.
If our radiologist does find an abnormality, we will contact you immediately and schedule a time for you to return for a diagnostic mammogram and/or an ultrasound. This also doesn’t mean that you have breast cancer. Often, we need a few more images to confirm that it’s not cancer. Patients who are called back for additional imaging will get the results at the time of the exam. If you have a lump, pain, discharge or another questionable symptom, please contact your primary care doctor immediately to determine if you should have a diagnostic mammogram instead of a screening mammogram.
Excuse #5: I’m scared at just the thought of having a mammogram.
That is absolutely normal, really. We hear that a lot. The fear around mammograms usually has two parts. First, women don’t exactly know what to expect. Second, they are scared of having breast cancer.
Mammography technologists are not only trained to perform your exam, but they are also available to support and guide you through the entire process. While the thought of being diagnosed with breast cancer is scary, not knowing can bring even greater anxiety. Plus, the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better chance a person has for a full recovery. When it comes to your breast health, knowing more could not only save you time and money, but it could save your life.
So, don’t wait, let us help you face your fear and have a screening mammogram today. It’s easy to request an appointment online or schedule by calling 919.232.4700. All of our outpatient breast imaging offices provide 3D screening mammograms.