Whether you’ve just celebrated your fortieth birthday, have a family history of breast cancer, or need a mammogram for some other reason, it’s normal to feel a little nervous about scheduling an appointment. Fear, apprehension, misconceptions—all of these can be factors in your hesitation to pick up the phone, but mammograms are one of the best tools we have for identifying and treating breast cancer in its earliest stages to increase the chances of survival.
Here at Memphis Obstetrics & Gynecological Association, PC, we know that one of the best ways to overcome your procrastination is by arming yourself with the right information to prepare you both mentally and physically for your first mammogram. To help you take this preventative step towards maintaining your health, we’ve put together a guide on what to expect from this important appointment.
What is a mammogram?
Mammography is a specialized type of medical imaging that is used to detect breast tumors before they become symptomatic. The low-dose X-rays allow us to examine the structures inside the breast tissue, identifying tumors or other irregularities. The advances in digital imaging and computer processing have given us new and improved capabilities in the mammography field, such as digital mammograms, computer-aided detection, and breast tomosynthesis.
Digital mammography is similar to traditional film-based X-ray mammography, but the film has been replaced with digital imaging sensors. These are more efficient and provide us with better images using lower doses of X-ray radiation. Digital mammograms are also easy to store and can be transmitted electronically.
Computer-aided detection (CAD) systems help us to “read between the lines” of digitized mammogram images, identifying any areas of abnormal density, mass, or calcification. These may indicate the presence of cancer, and because the CAD system highlights suspect areas, it decreases the chances of an irregularity being missed.
Breast tomosynthesis may also be referred to as 3D mammography. Multiple images are taken from several angles, then combined to create a three-dimensional image of the breast. Though the multiple images slightly increase the overall dosage of the X-rays, they still fall under safe guidelines, and the advantages are many! Detection rates are higher with fewer false-positive abnormal findings, and breast tomosynthesis can also provide:
- greater accuracy in locating the size and shape of an irregularity
- earlier detection of small cancers
- fewer unwarranted biopsies
- better performance when identifying multiple tumors
- clearer images of tumors in dense breast tissue
What does a mammogram feel like? Is it painful?
During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between two plastic plates. This compression is essential for obtaining the kind of high-quality images that allow for the better detection of cancer. Though some women who have sensitive breasts may notice a bit of discomfort, it tends to be temporary and should resolve itself once the mammogram is complete.
You may want to consider avoiding a mammogram about a week before your menstrual cycle is expected to begin as the surge in hormones at this time can make your breasts more tender. Don’t worry if this is the only time you can be seen, though—the mammogram still shouldn’t be painful, it just may be slightly more uncomfortable than it otherwise might have been.
You can count on our technologists and staff to do all they can to make your mammogram experience as stress-free and comfortable as possible! We use advanced technology to look for any changes in the breast tissue, such as calcifications, masses, and any other suspicious areas that could be a sign of cancer.
If it’s your first mammogram, we won’t have any prior images for comparison, so you may receive a call to come back for more images to be taken. As you continue to get annual mammograms, we’ll be able to compare any new growths or deposits to your previous visits.
Mammogram results will usually be available to you within 1-2 weeks of your appointment.
How long does a mammogram take?
The actual time we spend screening is only about 10-15 minutes. However, you should allow time for your registration paperwork and changing into and out of a gown. In general, you can expect your appointment to last anywhere from 30-60 minutes in total.
What happens after a mammogram appointment?
If your mammogram results come back as normal, you should continue to schedule routine mammograms each year. If your results are abnormal, we will ask you to return for more focused images or a breast ultrasound exam. This will help us determine which next steps will be needed in the evaluation of any abnormality picked up by the mammogram. In the majority of cases, these extra images will resolve the issue and no additional evaluation is needed. In some cases, however, we may recommend a biopsy of the abnormality. We will always discuss these recommendations with you first, and take the time to answer any questions you may have. Your comfort is our top priority with any procedure!
Mammograms help women in the Mid-South live healthier lives
Thanks to the early detection methods provided through routine cancer screenings, the incidence of breast cancer has been declining since 2000, with fewer women dying from the disease every year.
Memphis Obstetrics & Gynecological Association, PC is proud to support the kind of preventive care that can save the lives of women in Memphis and across the Mid-South. Our team of professionals are knowledgeable, experienced, and committed to making your mammogram appointment a positive, rewarding, and stress-free experience. These screenings are important to your health, and you can rely on us to make you feel as comfortable as possible from start to finish.
With offices located in Memphis, Germantown, Bartlett, and Southaven, we make it simple and convenient to schedule regular mammograms and any necessary screenings. Appointments can be made by calling our office or scheduling online through our website.