Welcome to 40!
I was at my annual visit with my GYN and she said, “Now that you’re 40, it’s time for a mammogram.” Here we go, another “This is 40” milestone. My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago; thankfully she had a lumpectomy and a round of radiation and is doing great. Now with a family history, I knew it was important to go have the mammogram done.
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Your first mammogram establishes a baseline for every follow-up mammogram you will get. Mammograms are safe and a very important tool for your provider to use to monitor breast health. Typically once you reach 40 years old, you will have a mammogram annually, unless there are areas of concern or your provider feels it necessary to have them more frequently. In between mammograms continue to perform self-breast exams.
Screening mammograms are done annually as part of preventative care, if there is an area of concern, your provider will do a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram takes more pictures and tends to focus more on the area of concern. Once the mammogram is finished, a radiologist will interpret the pictures and give your provider the results.
How Bad Was It?
This is the first thing everyone asked following my first mammogram, and, to be honest, it wasn’t that bad. The mammogram technician was very thorough in her explanation of the exam and what we would be doing. I was given a warmed gown and shown to the changing room and a locker to store my purse. The exam itself is a little awkward as far as being put into positions to get the best pictures, it lasted about 10-15 minutes. There was no pain involved, it was a little uncomfortable when the machine squished my breast between the plates, but it was over quick. The technician did let me know that especially with the first exam, it isn’t uncommon to be called back for more pictures, they are establishing a baseline so they want the pictures to be clear as they can be. My results were sent later that day and all was normal, so I am good for another year. If you are due and haven’t made an appointment yet, let this be your reminder, it’s not that bad and you will have one less thing to worry about.