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Home » Expert Feature » Part Two: What Is Your Excuse? Helping women feel comfortable with screening mammography


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Part Two: What Is Your Excuse? Helping women feel comfortable with screening mammography

During part one of our series, we explored reasons why women postpone having an annual screening mammogram. Most of them involved not having time to do it or simply having let years go between screenings. We say — no problem, let’s get back on track today.

Below are other excuses our mammogram technologists sometimes hear. That’s why we’ve joined together to help uncover ways to turn excuses into action. We don’t want fear or a lack of understanding to drive decisions about your breast health. We want to explain why a simple excuse shouldn’t stop you from scheduling your screening mammogram today.

Mammo-racer-smallExcuse #1: I eat right, exercise and maintain a healthy weight so I probably don’t have breast cancer.

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. Mammography remains the best way to detect breast cancer and 3D mammography is the latest tool for detecting breast cancer at its earliest possible stage. While you’re working to stay healthy and strong, we recommend you 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. A Wake Radiology, 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 so that the best possible image can be captured — 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, your appointment should be made 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 try reducing or cutting out caffeine several days before your mammogram. Finally, we recommend patients try to relax. Your entire screening experience — from arrival to being back on your way — should only take about 30 minutes.

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 either 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.

If your screening mammogram is normal, we electronically share your results with your primary care provider and mail a letter to you. Patients who are called back for additional imaging will get the results at the time of the exam, and most often meet with the radiologist to review their results.

If you have a lump, pain, discharge or another questionable symptom, please contact your 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. 

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