Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women. The key to beating breast cancer is early detection. Women should perform monthly self breast examinations, have regular clinical breast examination by a trained medical professional, and schedule a yearly mammogram (beginning at age 40). Numerous studies prove that early detection is a vital component in the successful treatment of breast cancer.
Mammograms play a central part in early detection because they can detect changes in the breast that may be early signs of cancer, but are too small or subtle to be felt.
But consider the lifesaving potential of this test: A mammogram can detect breast cancer years before you’d ever feel a lump. And when detected early, before it has a chance to spread, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is about 98 percent.
While mammograms can be uncomfortable, you can take the edge off with these steps:
1. Schedule your mammogram for a few days after your period has ended, when breasts are less tender. Avoid the week before your period.
2. Ask your physician if it’s OK to take a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen an hour before your mammogram.
3. Avoid caffeine for two days before your test. Caffeine can increase breast tenderness.
4. Tell your healthcare provider if you have breast implants. Special care is needed when compressing breast implants to ensure they don’t rupture. The breasts must also be positioned and analyzed differently.
5. Ask your X-ray technician about thin foam pads (MammoPad Breast Cushions) that can be placed between your breast and the mammography machine to lessen pain. Studies show the pads don’t interfere with imaging and can greatly reduce discomfort, allowing the X-ray technician to compress breasts more (without increased discomfort) to get better images.
6. Dress to undress. Mammograms require that you strip down to the waist, so wearing a two-piece outfit may help you feel less exposed.
Don’t let fear of discomfort keep you from getting a mammogram. Remember, just a few seconds of grin-and-bear-it could save your life.