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Nine Tips for Your Screening Mammogram

Read Time: 2 minutes

Provider positions patient in front of mammogram machine

Most women should start getting a screening mammogram at age 40, according to the American Cancer Society. If you have family history of breast cancer or are high risk, your doctor may recommend this important screening at a younger age. And while a mammogram is crucial to your health, it’s probably not the most exciting thing on your calendar. Here are a few tips to make your appointment go more smoothly:

  1. Skip the deodorant: Most deodorants and antiperspirants contain aluminum. It’s what blocks your sweat glands from perspiring. While the amount of aluminum is small, it can appear as tiny white spots on the mammogram, which is also what calcifications look like. If you forget, or your appointment is late in the day and you don’t want to go without it, your mammographer can provide wipes to remove your deodorant.
  2. Wear a two-piece outfit: You will be required to remove everything from the waist up. It’ll be quicker and easier if you’re not wearing a dress or jumpsuit.
  3. Schedule with your menstrual cycle in mind: Your breasts are usually most tender the week before and the week of menstruation. Try to avoid scheduling your mammogram during these times.
  4. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever: If you are worried about discomfort, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) about an hour before your mammogram.
  5. Bring prior images: If you have had previous mammograms at a different facility, arrange to bring the images with you on a CD or have them sent to your new facility. This will allow the radiologist to compare your current images with past images and spot any changes.
  6. Skip the jewelry: You will need to remove any necklaces or earrings you wear. You may want to leave them at home so you don’t worry about losing them.
  7. Eat and drink like normal: There are no restrictions on what you eat or drink the day of your mammogram. You may want to consider reducing your intake of caffeinated beverages and chocolate a few days before your appointment. Caffeine can make your breasts feel more tender.
  8. Plan on about 30 minutes: Most mammograms take about 30 minutes from the time you check in to when you leave. There is always the possibility it will take longer, but half an hour is the average amount of time.
  9. Treat yourself: You’ve just taken an important step in in cancer prevention—celebrate! Buy yourself a treat or just take the long way home and enjoy the alone time.

Cancer touches all of us.