4. Don’t put off screening because of discomfort. A mammogram should never be painful. Fear that the exam will be uncomfortable is one reason women put off scheduling a mammogram. To reduce discomfort, try to schedule the exam after your monthly period, when breast tissue is less sensitive. You may benefit by taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen before your mammogram. Above all, tell the mammography technologist about any discomfort you may be experiencing. They can work with you to make the experience more comfortable.
5. Don’t put off screening because of fear. Most abnormalities found after a mammogram are not cancer. However, in some cases you may be called back for more tests, such as additional mammography or ultrasound screening, to confirm that the area on the screening mammogram is normal. That’s why you may be asked to return for a follow-up exam.
6. Consider getting results while you wait. Particularly for your first mammogram, you may want to schedule your exam so you receive your results before you leave the imaging center. Or if you have found that you are frequently called back to your mammography center for a second scan, you can ask that your appointment include getting results to you while you wait.
7. Know how your breasts feel normally. Your health care provider can show you how to do breast self-exam. If you notice a change in your breasts, such as a lump or swelling, skin irritation or dimpling, talk to your health care provider.
8. In addition to mammography, have a regular breast exam by your health care provider. The American Cancer Society recommends that women 40 and over should receive annual clinical breast exams. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of a periodic health exam by a health professional at least every three years.
9. Know your risk. If you have family members who have had breast cancer, especially a mother or sister, and if they had breast cancer before reaching menopause, tell your doctor, as your own risk of cancer may be higher than average. Some women at high risk may be recommended for annual MRI in addition to a screening mammogram.
10. Try an online risk calculator. The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, designed by the National Cancer Institute, is a questionnaire to help women determine their chances of developing invasive breast cancer.
Learn more about Dr. Lehman's research »