There’s no doubt when you see the sea of pink ribbons in October you know it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And most likely you’ve heard that “early detection is the best protection.” So when your doctor suggests you schedule your baseline or first mammogram here are a few things you should know.

1. When should I have my first screening mammogram?

Current guidelines suggest that women 40 years and older, should have an annual screening mammogram. There has been much controversy lately about when a women should begin annual screening mammograms. Recommendations by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)* are threatening access for women under 50 to mammograms that play an important role in the early detection of breast cancer.  While a few organizations have adjusted their guidelines others like the American College of Radiology(acr.org), Society of Breast Imaging(sbi-online.org) and American Gynecological & Obstetrical Society(acog.org) stand behind the importance of women starting their baseline screening mammogram at age 40 and then annually.

Last year, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) (ayotte.senate.gov) joined Senator Barbara Mikulski(Mikulski.senate.gov) (D-MD) in introducing the Protect Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act (S. 1926) to protect access to annual mammogram screenings for women ages 40 to 74. “We need to ensure that women have the best information available to make well-informed health care decisions,” said Senator Ayotte.

2. Choosing the right facility

One easy way of identifying a quality facility is to look for the Breast Imaging Center of Excellence (BICOE) designation by the American College of Radiology (ACR). All mammography facilities must meet basic requirements for training, equipment, quality control, and safety, however the BICOE designation represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety. It is only awarded to those facilities meeting ACR standards and guidelines, following a peer-review evaluation by board certified physicians who are experts in the field. The radiologists and technologists have additional training and education in the accredited modalities of mammography, breast ultrasound, biopsy, and breast MRI. This ensures they are proficient in the most recent breast imaging developments.

When you choose a facility that possesses capabilities such as these you gain the peace of mind of knowing that will not have to be referred to a different facility in the event that you need further testing to follow up your mammogram.

3. Does it really matter if I have a 3D mammogram?

Conventional 2D mammograms provide doctors with a 2D image to evaluate the breast. This can be limiting due to overlapping layers of tissue, which can sometimes produce unclear results, false alarms, or worse–cancer being missed.

3D™ mammograms provide a much better way to screen for breast cancer:

  • Detects 41% more invasive breast cancers
  • Reduces call backs up to 40%
  • Benefits women of all ages and breast density

4. Do I need to prepare?

There isn’t a lot you need to do to prepare before a mammogram. But here are a few tips to make it go as smoothly as possible.

  • If you tend to experience tender breasts during your menstrual cycle, try to avoid scheduling your mammogram the week before your cycle is to begin.
  • Do not wear deodorant, lotion or other powders the day of your exam.  It could interfere with your pictures. Some facilities will provide you with a deodorant pack for after the exam or pack your stick in your purse to use after the exam.
  • You will only need to remove your top and bra so it’s best to wear a two piece outfit. The technologist will provide you with a gown to wear.
  • Don’t forget to ask questions so that you won’t be needlessly worrying about what to expect.

5. What to expect when getting a screening mammogram

  • As mentioned earlier you’ll have to undress above the waist for your exam. You will be given a gown to wear.
  • The technologist will bring you into the mammography exam room where she will ask you simple questions about yourself and your family health history.  This is a good time to mention if you have any concerning lumps, or if you have had surgery or breast implants.
  • The tech will have you stand in front of the mammography machine and will adjust it to your height.  She will ask you to take your arm out of one of the sleeves of the top, so that your breast can be examined on the machine.
  • You will be asked to lean in towards the shelf on the machine to properly position your breast.
  • The tech will gently place a light plastic “plate” on top of your breast to allow for the necessary compression.  She will ask you to hold your breath while the machine compresses the breast for a few brief seconds and takes the mammogram picture.  Once the picture is done, the compression releases.  The tech will adjust your position to make the process as comfortable as possible.
  • There will be four images of each breast taken–so, four different moments of adjusting, compression, and release per breast.
  • The results of the exam will be sent directly to you and your doctor.

At Derry Imaging we are honored to serve the women who choose us year after year and are proud to be a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.

For our first time mammogram patients we try to make the experience as easy and comfortable as possible. We have a separate waiting room just for female mammogram patients with individual changing rooms and you will even receive a special gift for taking the first steps toward early detection.

We offer convenient appointment times, early morning, evening and Saturdays. You can call our office to schedule or schedule right online from your computer or smart phone.

It’s easy to put off your mammogram but truth is they save lives … early detection is the best protection!

*It is important to note that the Task Force did not include any experts in medicine, radiology, or oncology, and based their recommendations on outdated European 2D mammography studies.

Do you need to schedule a mammogram? Book an appointment by clicking the Derry Imaging logo.