Start with some deep breathing
Despite knowing how important they are to your health, you can't help but feel a little nervous about getting one. The thought of the potentially painful boob-squeezing makes you wince -- no matter if it's your first or tenth time getting a mammogram. The first step is always building up the courage to book your mammogram appointment, keeping in mind that if you are age 40 or older, without a family history of breast cancer, you should plan on having a mammogram every 1-2 years (according to the National Cancer Institute). If you are at high-risk for developing breast cancer, your doctor may recommend that you have your first mammogram before age 40.
Either way, making your appointment can be the hardest part. Make plans with a friend to make appointments on the same day and then celebrate with a glass of wine together afterwards. We won't tell that your appointment was at 9 a.m.!
It isn't as bad as it sounds... really
If you've never had a mammogram, reading about it online or hearing about other friends talk about it can make them seem like a medieval torture device, rather than cutting-edge life-saving medical technology. "They're going to do what to my breasts? Squish them down to the size of pancakes?" We realize this sounds crazy, but we promise that by the time you get your clothes back on and walk out the door, you'll be wondering what the fuss was all about.
The first step is for your technician (always a woman, by the way) to position your breasts correctly in the machine. Sometimes this can be a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing, especially if you are on the modest side, but they are typically great at making small talk to keep your mind off of the fact that she is moving your breasts in a million different ways.
After that comes the squishing. In reality, it only takes a few seconds to capture the image once the two plates come together. In the words of one mom, "When it feels as if it's as tight as it can possibly go, it gets a bit tighter. It's not really painful, but a bit uncomfortable."
Breast cancer survivor, Margot, who has had her fair share of mammograms over the recent years tells us, that the most painful part of having a mammogram is that "you have to take really tiny breaths because your lungs are pressed up against the machine."
All in all, a mammogram appointment should last about 15-20 minutes from start to finish, unless you have additional issues that need to be considered.
Tips for a smooth mammogram
- Schedule your mammogram for one week after you think your period will end. Having tender breasts from menstruating will only make your mammogram more uncomfortable.
- Choose a shirt, rather than a dress on your appointment day. This way, you can simply take off your top for your mammogram, rather than fully undress.
- Do not wear any perfume, lotion or deodorant on the day of your mammogram. It can cause additional spots on your pictures. Please inquire more about these guidelines when you make your appointment.
Above all, remember that these are general guidelines only and you should always turn to your doctor first for advice about healthcare.