Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mass General breast imaging experts share tips for getting through your first mammogram

"Even though I was anxious at first, the staff was caring
and nice, explaining everything so I knew what to
expect when I got my mammogram."

Read our patients' stories

Mammograms can cause anxiety for many women. "I am full of stress and anxiety days before my mammogram and until I receive my letter in the mail," says one of our patients. "So stressed that I think I drive my husband, sisters and mother crazy...for days!"

Our breast imaging technologists meet women every day who feel the same way about the test recommended annually starting at age 40. We asked them for their best advice for women facing their first mammogram.

  • Try to stay relaxed and breathe gently. If you're nervous before the exam, you may be more tense and uncomfortable.
  • You don't have to take everything off but be sure to wear two pieces. We're only interested in the top half!
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever before the exam if you think you might be uncomfortable.
  • Eat something before your appointment. It's a good idea to have something in your stomach.
  • Don't worry about the size of your breasts. Size has nothing to do with comfort during the exam.
  • The best time to schedule a mammogram is the week after your period starts when it's typically less uncomfortable to be compressed.
  • If you've had a mammogram at a different facility, bring your images to your appointment to help speed up the results process.
  • If you have any concerns about your breasts before your appointment (such as a lump you can feel), contact your doctor because a different exam may be needed.
  • Don't always believe your best friend or your great aunt! If you have any questions, call the mammography department and ask to speak to a technologist.

Every mammogram at Mass General is scrutinized by a radiologist who specializes in breast imaging. We use 3D mammography (breast tomosynthesis) to help distinguish harmless abnormalities from real tumors, leading to fewer callbacks and less anxiety for women.

Learn more about what to expect before, during and after a mammogram.

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