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Mammogram: Fears, Apprehensions, Expectations and Facts!

“Just a reminder that mammograming your boobs is more important than instagramming them!” - Anonymous

Mammogram saves lives! That’s a fact and also a common knowledge among educated and/or informed women. Yet, despite this knowledge, a lot of these women still don’t go for it.

A lot of us women are anxious, worried and scared to go for a mammogram. “Is it painful?” “What should I do if the screening shows I have breast cancer? Oh, I’d rather not know.”

Most of this anxiety is due to the fact that many don’t have any idea of what to expect from a mammogram. We imagined our breasts being flattened out or painfully squeezed by a machine. And we’re jittery about the outcome. 

For a number of women, the anxiety is so severe that they get what's known as "scanxiety" – a fear of imaging tests that causes them to delay getting a breast screening or worse avoid it totally and never ever getting one.

Ladies (and gentlemen), fear is of course natural but it’s crucial to make sure that it does not hinder you from knowing the state of your health -- your breast health in particular! This love month, we’d like to encourage you to love your breasts more. There are many ways to show love and affection to your breasts that they so deserve but let’s start off with a mammogram.

What is a mammogram? The American College of Radiology defines mammogram as “a non-invasive X-ray used to check breasts for breast cancer and other abnormalities. It is the only test shown to reduce breast cancer deaths. Mammograms can detect cancer early — when most treatable — long before it can be felt. This improves the odds of survival and can help avoid more extensive treatment.” No matter what the naysayers say, mammograms do save lives! Studies after studies proved it time and time again.

At Lilly Women’s Health, we say that a mammogram is a must for all women who are 35 years old and above. Early detection is key!

It results in a near 100% cure rate. We encourage every woman within this age range to make the smart decision of going through this routine and life-saving breast cancer screening.

When to schedule a mammogram?

First, you need to make an appointment. At Lilly Women’s Health, you can schedule your appointment or call us at these numbers: 0906 000 5897 and 0908 700 0030. Choose a date and time that you’d like to come and you’re all set. It’s that easy!

It's best to schedule your mammogram about a week after your menstrual period as your breasts are usually less tender then. While not a ‘must’,  you may want to schedule your appointment early in the day since you can’t wear deodorant, powder, lotion or ointment around the chest area.

Prior to your appointment date, you’ll get a questionnaire that you can fill in online. The questions are mostly about information pertaining to a personal and family medical history, previous mammograms and other breast imaging tests, etc. These are necessary details we need to gather so the Radiologist can render the most accurate assessment and evaluation of your mammogram data. If you can’t fill it online, you can also just do it when you are at the clinic on your appointment date. Just come a few minutes earlier than your scheduled time so you still have enough time to fill in the questionnaire before we do the mammogram.

What to wear when going for a mammogram appointment? It is practical to wear a 2-piece outfit because you’re expected to undress from the waist up. Also don’t apply deodorant, ointment, lotion, etc. around the armpit area as these can cause the x-ray image to look like there’s a breast issue that you need to be concerned about even when there is none.

Most deodorants, ointments, lotion, etc. have metallic substances or aluminum particles that interfere with a mammogram. These particles are so dense and can look like tiny white specks on a mammogram, mimicking the appearance of Calcifications.

Calcifications can be an early sign of breast cancer. The aluminum particles in the picture makes it difficult to distinguish deodorant aluminum from true calcifications.

That is the main reason why we ask you not to use deodorant, ointment, lotion, etc. when you come for a mammogram to our clinic. Without these on your body, we can be certain we’ll get a clean image we can use to assess your breast health.

What to expect when getting a mammogram?

1. On your appointment date, you will be happily welcomed by our staff at the breast care centre. Our Patient Care Provider will then accompany you to the dressing room. You will be asked to put on the laboratory gown (everything from the waist up must be taken off). You can also put on a robe over the gown so you don’t feel cold (if the air-conditioned room temperature is too cold for you).

Our Patient Care Providers are all specialized in breast screening. They are also experienced and trained to do some little tricks in terms of moving patients’ breasts around comfortably. They know how to move your breasts in perfect position and how to compress them very gently, so that you are very comfortable during the whole procedure. You will also be asked if everything feels okay with you otherwise our Patient Care Providers will figure out something else to make you feel as comfortable as you can be before doing the mammogram without compromising the imagery for the Radiologist to assess the mammogram more accurately.

2. When you’re ready, you may be asked to raise your arm slightly up and hold your breasts for a few seconds while the mammogram equipment takes multiple pictures from different angles.

And that’s it! The whole process takes only 15-20 minutes. It’s fast and easy. If there’s ever something uncomfortable, it’s generally just a little squish for maybe around 5 seconds.

Click here and find out what women say about their mammogram experience with Lilly Women’s Health. They all said it’s not painful. They felt comfortable and they’re happy they’ve done it for the sake of their health and peace of mind.

What happens after the mammogram?

The Radiologist at Lilly Women’s Health is a US Board Certified Breast Imaging Specialist. She interprets an average of 10,000 breast imaging multi- modality studies annually. This is very important because radiologists who exclusively read breast imaging (and read a higher volume of breast imaging) have higher cancer detection rate. That means they assess the mammogram accurately and pick up cancers (if any) from the mammogram data.

In 90% or majority of the cases, the images look great and normal. We then email you the result as soon as it’s available. You can also pick it up from the clinic or you can ask us to send it to your physician.

In about 10% of the cases, we need to clarify additional findings and you’ll be asked to come back for additional imaging.

Getting called back after a screening mammogram is not a rarity if it’s your first time to undergo a mammogram. It does not mean that you have breast cancer. So don’t panic. The fact is fewer than 1 in 10 women who are asked to return for additional tests are found to have breast cancer.

When you are asked to come back for additional screenings, it usually entails you to  go through more x-rays or you probably need to get an ultrasound to have a closer look at an area of concern.

A call back after a mammogram can be due to the following:

1. The images didn't show some of your breast tissue and need to be retaken.
2. You have dense breast tissue, which makes cancer screening more challenging and makes it difficult to see some parts of your breasts.
3. The Radiologist finds calcifications or a mass. These are small deposits of calcium within breast tissue that appear on mammograms as bright white flecks or dots. It could be a cyst or solid mass.
4. The Radiologist sees an area that just looks different from other parts of the breasts.

Again, not everything that is found is cancer but until all the necessary tests are done, no one can be certain. The odds are in your favor, and it isn’t cancer until you’re told by your doctor that it is. Do not worry if you get a call back.

There you go! Going through a screening mammogram is very straightforward. It is not that uncomfortable and definitely not painful. Actually, most women say that wearing heels is more uncomfortable than getting a mammogram. If there’s any discomfort at all, it is momentary. The reward? You leave knowing full well that you’ve done something important for your health and for your life. It takes only a maximum of 20 minutes out of your busy schedule but those precious 20 minutes can save your life.

Love your breasts! Make sure they’re healthy. Get them checked. Go and do a mammogram. Your breasts deserve it. You need it!