10 Ways to Blast First-Time Mammogram Stress

by Lexi Petronis, Glamour
The word "mammogram" used to seem like it only belonged to older women--but the fact is, women in their 20s and 30s are at risk for cancer, too. Mammograms are simple, low-dose x-ray procedures that detect breast abnormalities up to two years before you can feel them--and the earlier you find them, the better.

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But mammograms can be stressful if you've never had one before and you don't know what to expect. That's why the American Society of Radiologic Technologists shared these tips for mammogram first-timers--they're helpful because cover both the practical stuff and the emotional stuff, so you'll be totally prepared:

* Schedule your mammogram just after your period, when your breasts are less tender.

* Wear a two-piece outfit (i.e., not a dress) on the day of your mammogram, so you'll have to remove only your top.

* Don't apply deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or near your breasts (they can show up on the x-ray image and may make it difficult to interpret).

* Bring along the name, address and phone number of your primary care physician.

* If you've had mammograms before, bring along info about where and when they took place, and copies of the results, if possible.

* Plan at least 40-60 minutes for the exam, from beginning to end (this includes prep time).

* Let the mammographer know if you've experienced any changes in your breasts, if you've had any previous breast surgery, or if you have breast implants.

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And about that mammographer... Liana Watson, D.M., R.T.(R)(M)(S)(BS), RDMS, RVT, FASRT, is ASRT's chief governance and development officer. But before that, she worked as a hospital-based mammographer for more than 20 years. "A mammographer is a radiologic technologist who has been specifically educated to provide women with the highest quality mammogram. A key part of the mammographer's job is making sure patients are comfortable during the procedure and providing them with information about the procedure itself," she says. So she adds these tips to the list:

* Don't be afraid to ask the mammographer questions about the exam. If this is your first mammogram, let the mammographer know so they can spend a little extra time explaining the procedure to you.

* If your skin is extra sensitive to touch or pressure, let your mammographer know before he/she starts the procedure. It's normal for some women to experience some discomfort during the exam, and it lasts for only a few seconds, but the pressure shouldn't bring tears to your eyes.

* The mammographer can't interpret the images; only a qualified physician can do this. Most screening mammograms are interpreted within a few days of when you had the exam so you will receive the results of your mammogram a week or two after the procedure. If you're concerned about receiving the results, ask the mammographer when you can expect the results.

Have you ever had a mammogram? Does the idea make you nervous at all?

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