I’m a woman, I’ve had a mammogram, and yes, I admit, it was painful—for a few seconds each time the compression occurred to make sure the best image was obtained. Although, at the time, it seemed longer than a few seconds, that’s all it was. By the time I was dressed, those seconds of pain were a distant memory replaced by the knowledge that I was doing something to take care of me.
Both personally and as a manager in the Bryan Radiology Department, I realize that getting a mammogram isn’t on anyone’s Top 10 list of fun things to do. But then again, not everything in life is fun…and if it helps you live life longer, then there’s your reason to power through it.
As women, we do all kinds of things that aren’t on our Top 10 lists in the interest of doing what’s best for ourselves and others. In this case, mainly being sure we are around to enjoy life with our family and friends—and actually enjoy the activities that are on our list of fun things to do!
So my goal is to provide you with some tips and information to make getting a mammogram easier, less confusing, and more comfortable.
When Should I Get a Mammogram?
In recent years, many organizations have come out with differing guidelines of when women should get their first mammogram and ongoing mammograms. It’s confusing! These are all good and credible organizations, so how do you know what is right for you?
The probably not-so-helpful but true answer is it depends—on your personal health history, your family health history, and many other variables. The best way to determine what is best for you is to talk to your doctor. During this conversation that includes your doctor’s knowledge of your health history, the right decision can be made for you.
You can also learn more about this topic by listening to the podcast “Mammograms: Understanding the Latest Recommendations” featuring radiologist Dr. Jeff Matthes.
What Can I Do to Make My Mammogram Less Painful?
Here are steps you can take for a more comfortable and effective mammogram:
- Schedule your mammogram at a time of month when your breasts are not tender.
- Lower your caffeine intake for a few days before your mammogram.
- Dress in a comfortable two-piece outfit since you will be asked to undress from the waist up and remove any jewelry that might get in the way.
- Do not wear deodorant as this can interfere with the mammogram results (At Bryan, we provide deodorant packets for you after your exam).
- Do not use talcum powder, ointment, or cream on your breasts or underarms, as this can interfere with the mammogram results.
- Consider taking Advil, Tylenol or whatever over-the-counter medication you normally take for pain or discomfort before and/or after your exam.
An additional optional service we offer at Bryan for a small fee is comfort pads. These pads can help make a mammogram more comfortable.
What’s Next for You?
Now that you have the resources to find out when it’s best for you to get a mammogram and ways to make it less painful, your next step is to take action. Whatever that may be. If you’re not due for a year or two or five, then plan on that. If it’s time to take care of you and get a mammogram, do it! And then move on to enjoying that fun thing on your Top 10 list!
As a woman who’s worked in this field for many years, I am proud of the advances made that make mammograms better for women—3D technology so doctors can see the very smallest details, less radiation to improve safety, and much more. It’s also important to me to help share information so you can get the most out of this life-saving exam.
Denise Logan is a manager at Bryan Medical Center. Bryan Health offers mammography at four convenient locations. To learn more, visit bryanhealth.org/mammogram.