It’s normal to get frustrated with your siblings but I never thought I would get mad at my sister over a mammogram. A couple months ago I called her and she was angry telling me she received a notice in the mail that she was due for a mammogram. She didn’t want to go and didn’t understand why she should. As I listened to her, I grew more and more frustrated and said sternly, “You are going!!!” She was caught a little off guard and replied, “I will, but why are you so angry???”
It was then I realized how passionate I am about breast cancer awareness. I responded to my sister, “This is a cancer I can fix if found early.” I continued explaining why she needs to get a mammogram and about the patients I have been able to help because of it. What surprised me was that she didn’t know or realize its importance. My own sister, who grew up in our medical family and knows how our father and I have taken care of so many breast cancer patients, yet she still didn’t get the message. And if she isn’t, how many others out there aren’t?

As I listened to my sister’s fears and struggles and helped her through them, I realized we can do so much more to help people. There are a lot of fears and anxieties that people have that we as doctors don’t realize because it is so close to us. October is breast Cancer awareness month and while seeing the shades of pink everywhere can be great, I think the awareness messages can get lost.  I want to connect with people and help them understand this common cancer that affects 1 in 7 women.  Screening mammograms are the best method we have in preventing breast cancer. Although there are several published guidelines, it is generally recommended that all women over age 40 have an annual mammogram.

Here are some other important facts that you need to know about mammograms:

40 and Older

If you are 40 years old and above, you need a mammogram every year.  The Affordable Care Act requires that all insurance plans starting after August 12, 2012 provide screening mammograms without a copay or deductible.  Many facilities will also offer specials or deals during the month of October for those women not covered by those health plans.

Family History

If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may order mammograms starting at age 35.

Try and Get 3D

Ask if your facility offers 3D mammograms or tomosynthesis.  Tomosynthesis is a 3 dimensional digital mammography technique that has several advantages over traditional mammograms.  It may identify tumors that conventional mammograms cannot find. It may reduce the risk of a false positive result leading to further testing.  It may detect tumors in dense breast tissue.  However, it is more costly and may not be available at all centers.  Check with your insurance if it covers 3 D mammograms for screening.

No Deodorant until After

Don’t wear deodorant, powders or lotions to your mammogram appointment.  Some deodorants have powders that can show up as calcifications on your images.  If you forget this tip, most mammography centers supply wipes or washcloths to remove.  Stick some deodorant in your purse for afterwards.

Wear Two Piece Clothing

Wear two piece clothing to your mammogram appointment.  Most centers supply short robes or gowns.  You can leave your bottom half on!

Schedule after Your Period

Time your mammogram for one week after your menstrual period if you suffer from breast tenderness.  Some women find mammograms painful, and this timing affords the most comfort.  Remember that each picture only takes a few seconds.

Ask for Immediate Results

Ask if your facility has immediate results available.  Most women love the reassurance when they receive immediate results at the time of their mammograms.  Not all centers can accommodate immediate results, but it is worth asking.
Schedule Accordingly
Leave time in your schedule for additional pictures if needed.