Set aside the notion that mammograms are often regarded as an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. They are an essential tool in detecting early breast cancer. Consider the following when scheduling your annual mammogram:
- Make a booking at a facility that either specialises in mammography or performs many mammograms each day.
- Ask your mammography centre whether they offer with full field digital mammography.
- Ask whether they are trained in mammography interpretation and how many mammograms they do each day.
- If you are satisfied that the facility you use provides high-quality mammography, continue to go there on a regular basis so your mammograms can be compared year to year.
- If you change to a different facility, ask for your previous mammogram films to bring with you to the new facility so they may be compared to the new mammograms that will be taken.
- If you have sensitive breasts, try having your mammogram performed at times of the month when your breasts will be less tender. In general, the week after a period is when breasts should be least tender.
- Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder, lotions or cream under your arms or on your breasts on the day of your mammogram, because they may interfere with the quality of the mammogram image.
- Bring as much data with you about your previous mammograms and breast health history, including dates and places of previous mammograms and other breast imaging, biopsies or treatments you may have had before.
An important consideration is the screening interval. The longer the screening interval, the less the benefit, as more and more cancers will be detected in the interval instead of at the screening visit.
Screening mammography has plenty of benefits for all women: it changes the treatment of breast cancer from a dreaded disease to a manageable condition. Other than breast exams and gynaecological visits, you should visit your doctor at least once a year for a physical check-up.