How to Prepare for a Mammogram

A mammogram is an imaging test performed by radiologists used to look for masses and irregularities inside breast tissue, usually prescribed by your physician as an annual exam or to follow up on any suspected lumps. Unfortunately, mammograms can be rather painful, as they involve the flattening of breast tissue between plates in order to properly view the fatty tissue, nerves and veins inside. But with a little bit of forward planning, you can minimize the discomFfort and maximize the efficiency of your test.

Timing is Everything

Breast tissue often becomes more dense and even painful in the week before and during menstruation, due to the fluctuation in estrogen. Therefore, assuming your cycle is fairly regular and predictable, talk to both your doctor and your radiologists to try to schedule the mammogram in the week after your menstruation period ends and estrogen is low.

Keep it Simple

As your upper body will need to be examined, try to wear clothes that are easy to take off from the waist up, and avoid hindrances such as jewelry or other accessories. Additionally, avoid applying lotion, perfume or deodorant to avoid any interactions with the equipment caused by mineral particles in your cosmetics. These can occasionally show up on the images and may cause a false positive.

Take Preventative Measures

If you are especially concerned, talk to your doctor and consider taking a low dose of painkillers such as ibuprofen an hour before the mammogram. This may help control or lower any discomfort caused by the imaging. Additionally, you might see about having a friend accompany you as emotional support or, if your pain is severe and requires a higher dose of pain medication, to assist in driving you home.

In conclusion, a mammogram is a brief and slightly uncomfortable test and an excellent diagnostic for issues such as benign cysts, tumors, or something more serious. Thankfully, with proper self-examination and a proactive doctor, these tests should be fairly infrequent in your life and by following these steps can be minimally invasive.

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