You may have heard that women over a certain age should get mammograms regularly, but without knowing what they are and why they’re important, it can be easy to dismiss this recommendation. However, mammograms are important screening procedures that are worth learning about (and then getting, if you choose to do so).
What are mammograms?
Mammograms are low-dose x-rays that are used to detect breast cancer, especially in its early stages. This is when breast cancer tends to be the most treatable.
Who should get mammograms, and how often?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently recommends screening mammograms every two years for women between the ages of 50 and 74. Some other organizations have slightly different recommendations, and your personal risk factors (such as genetics, family history, and past history of breast cancer) can also help determine when and how often you should get screened.
What can I expect during the procedure?
A mammogram requires you to be undressed from the waist up, so it may be a good idea to wear a shirt with a skirt or pants (as opposed to a dress). You should also avoid using deodorant, perfume, or powder on the day of your appointment, since these products can actually show up on the x-rays and make them harder to read.
To take the x-rays, you will be asked to stand in front of a special x-ray machine with a lower plate to place your breasts on. An upper plate will be lowered to compress your breasts briefly to take the x-ray. Some people find the pressure of the plate uncomfortable, but it should only last a few seconds. If it hurts, you should tell the person administering the mammogram. Typically, two views are taken of each breast, which comes out to a total of four x-rays.
Where can I get a mammogram?
The Wellness & Stress Clinic will be offering free mammograms at our next Women and Children’s night on November 15 (not the upcoming one on August 23). Information on how to sign up for one will be provided closer to time.
If you have a regular doctor, you can also talk to them about when and where to get a mammogram. In addition, if you are on Medicare, you can call 1-800-633-4227 or visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.
As always, stay healthy and stay safe!
–The Wellness & Stress Clinic Team