They might enter the clinic in fear. But after a mammogram by Leann McMullen, women often say, "Oh, that wasn't so bad."
"Many patients come in fearful because they've heard horror stories about mammograms," says McMullen. "But it shouldn't be a horrible experience. It is very important to listen to patients and help them feel at ease."
That's what the radiology coordinator and her colleagues try to do as they perform an average of 380 mammograms a month at Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic.
A mammogram is an X-ray examination of the breast in a woman with no breast complaints. It's meant to find cancer when it is too small to be felt by the woman or her doctor.
Early detection improves one's ability to overcome breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer).
A screening mammogram usually involves four views: a front and a side of each breast. For each view, the breast is squeezed between two plates to spread the tissue apart and allow a low dose of radiation.
"There is a moment of discomfort. It is tight, but then it's done. The total amount of compression time is 40 to 50 seconds for all four views," says McMullen, who personally receives a mammogram each year.
Follow these tips for a successful mammogram:Try to schedule your mammogram after your menstrual period. This is the time when your breasts are less likely to be swollen and tender.If caffeine makes your breast sensitive or tender, do not eat or drink caffeine a few days before the mammogram.If you have had mammograms at other clinics or hospitals in the last 10 years, bring the films and their reports with you. Or, you may have them mailed to the clinic. By comparing your new mammogram to old ones, a radiologist can see if your breast tissue has changed.Bring the name, address and phone number of your health care provider if he or she is not on staff at this clinic. The results of your mammogram will be sent to your provider.Wear a two-piece outfit to your mammography appointment. You will have to remove your clothes from the waist up and put on a hospital gown.If possible wait until after your mammogram to put on deodorant, powder or lotion.
Follow these tips for a successful mammogram:
After a mammogram, you may see some redness or bruising around your breast.If your breasts feel tender, you may take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) for one or two days. Take as directed.In most cases, you will receive your results in about one week.A radiologist will interpret (read) your mammogram. He or she will compare this one with your other mammograms. The radiologist will send the results to your health care provider.You may be asked to come back for more X-rays. This means the radiologist may want a more detailed view of a specific area of the breast. A "call back" does not mean you have cancer or that the mammogram was not done correctly.
After a mammogram, you may see some redness or bruising around your breast.
In most cases, you will receive your results in about one week.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Mammograms, Clinical Breast Exams and Self-exams, rad-ahc-14066 (3/08); American Cancer Society; "Types of Breast Biopsies" by Tammy Fox, MD, and Diane Stoller, MD, Piper Breast Center Communiqué, winter 2003; National Cancer Institute
Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, president, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute; Carol Bergen, RN, manager, Piper Breast Center; Deborah Day, MD, medical director, Piper Breast Center
Mary Rinehart, radiology technician and mammography lead at Allina Health Richfield Clinic, helps to position a woman who is having a mammogram.
Check with your insurance provider to make sure the mammogram will be covered.
Find the mammogram location that works best for you.