So here are answers and explanations to a few questions that I had.
- Scheduling — ladies, we all know there is a certain time you are supposed to call to schedule your appointment. You will not go in right away. As a matter of fact, it took me two weeks to be able to get in. So I’d figure when you call it’ll probably be one to two weeks until your appointment.
- Don’t wear any deodorant or powder. However, if you do forget, or just can’t avoid wearing deodorant before your appointment, they will just have you wash it off before having the procedure done. My mammogram technician explained these products can appear as cancer on the images, so that’s why they recommend you remove these products from your body.
- So with that said, yes, can shower before the procedure (you don’t have to avoid soap ahead of time), and yes, you can wear a bra before the appointment.
- With my experience, there was really no discomfort (you always hear the “horror” stories of how painful it is). Again, this was MY experience. Every woman is going to have a different experience. I thought the worst part was holding your breath (which I find difficult to do when I am nervous — which I was). They will take about 3 images/angles per side, so they will readjust your upper body accordingly (it’ll make you feel a bit like a contortionist). Like I said, the hardest part was just not being able to breathe for several seconds as they take each image.
- If your insurance allows it (you may have to check with them ahead of time), get the 3D mammogram if possible. It takes images of each layer of your breast, so they have around 80 different layers of images they can check. As my awesome technician (Holly at UPMC WCA) told me, the older 2D versions doesn’t really differentiate between the “good” white areas in the image and the “bad” white areas.
- If you feel you need moral support, bring someone with you. Being a first-timer with a family history of breast cancer, I was extremely nervous about the procedure (actually I was really more nervous about the results and not the procedure itself), so I brought my mom. She’s gone through it many times AND is a breast cancer survivor, so she was able to walk me through it ahead of time to ease my mind a bit.
- One thing you should know ahead of time is they MIGHT ask for more pictures after your initial mammogram. As Holly told me, DO NOT freak out if this happens. They are just being super cautious to make sure there is nothing there. And if you are a first-timer like me, they don’t have any other baseline images to compare to in your history. So it’s hopefully nothing but them just being cautious. I was extremely fortunate and did NOT need to take any further images. I was cleared after the first set!
- So with that said, if they are able to and offer the capability, wait for your results. First of all, you will have peace of mind without having to wait for a phone call or letter to know all is well. And secondly, IF they need to take further images, you are still there.
- Bring your own deodorant. Once you are all said and done, you are free to put your top back and and apply deodorant. They do offer a spray deodorant for your use, but if you prefer your own, bring it.
- If you wear glasses you will probably have to remove them (if you are having the 3D). There’s a plastic shield you have to place your face against as you contort into position.
- They offer you a lead shield to protect your lower extremities if you would like it.
You’re called back and asked how you would like to receive your results (letter, phone call, wait), and then asked to remove your top and put on a top-only hospital “gown.” (You can leave on everything waist down). Then once the technician prepares the room, she takes you into THE room. In the room was a mammogram machine, and the machine (behind a clear shield) the technician uses to take the scans. After asking you some questions about your health history, she will then position you several times on each side to take several different scans, all the while telling you when you can breathe (but don’t move), and when you need to stop breathing. After she is finished (at least this happened for me), she may show you the scans she took of you and walk you through them. Then you’ll go back to the changing area and wait, if you opted to wait, until the doctor reads your results. When you are done, get dressed, put on your deodorant — finally! — and go home and celebrate.
I hope this answers some questions for those of you who have never gone through a mammogram. It was a new experience for me, and I know for me knowledge is power. Having a basic idea of what to expect helps qualm the “fear of the unknown.”
So ladies, if you’ve been putting off your mammogram, please go get it done. It really isn’t that bad and it can save a life!
PS … don’t listen to “them.” Get it done once a year!