The aim of screening is to detect breast cancer at an early stage, when there's the highest chance of successful treatment and full recovery.
Give yourself a pat on the back for taking this positive step for your health.
What happens when you arrive for screening?
- The staff will check your details and ask you some basic questions about your health. At this point, if you have any questions or concerns, please ask! If you have had breast implants, do let the staff know beforehand as well.
- You will need to undress to the waist. Since you'll only need to take off your top, you might want to wear a blouse and skirt/pants, instead of a dress, just to make things easier for yourself.
- The radiographer will explain to you what is going to happen. She will then place your breast onto the mammogram machine, in between 2 plastic plates, and lower the top plate onto it gently but firmly. The breast is gently compressed by the plastic plates for a few seconds, to spread the tissue apart and get a good image of the breast.
- The radiographer will usually take 2 X-rays of each breast – one from above and one from the side. She will go behind a screen while the X-rays are taken. You have to keep still for several seconds each time.
- After your breasts have been x-rayed, you're done! Call a friend and go treat yourself to a yummy brunch! Meanwhile, your mammogram will be checked for any abnormalities. You will be asked to return to the clinic for a review once the results are out.
Tips to ease your fears
Some women may find the procedure painful. However, know that any discomfort will be over quickly – each compression only lasts up to 10 seconds. In total, the mammogram will last only a couple of minutes.
TIP: If you haven't gone through menopause, schedule your mammogram for the week after your period. You are most likely to experience breast tenderness before or during your period, and if you go for your mammogram then, it will only lead to more discomfort when the breast is being compressed.
If the pain is causing you worry, you could try taking a painkiller. Taking an aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen about an hour before your mammogram could ease the discomfort.
Also, know that it's alright for you to speak up if you're feeling anxious. When you are there, ask questions and raise any concerns you may have.
During the mammogram, let the radiographer know that you're feeling scared and you need her help to get through it. The radiographer will likely try to help make you feel as comfortable as possible.