You may have heard horror stories from other women about their mammogram experiences. Your physician will make a recommendation for your first mammogram to screen for breast cancer depending on your age and other factors such as genetics. Learn common myths to help dispel anxiety and worry about undergoing this examination.
Young and Healthy
You may think that if you are young and healthy, you don’t need to worry about breast cancer. While this may be the predominant trend, breast cancer can occur in women of any age. It’s true that a person’s genetics play a major role in the development of breast cancer, but they are not the sole risk factor. Any woman can develop malignancies, regardless of family history and age. In fact, about 85 percent of all women who develop the disease do not have a family history of the illness. Even if you perform breast self-exams monthly and think that you don’t have any lumps, it’s still important to undergo the test. This procedure can detect the tiniest tumors as long as three years before it’s possible to feel them manually. At their earliest stages, tumors are often very treatable.
While it’s true that a mammogram involves radiation, the levels are minimal. The procedure exposes a patient to 0.4 millisieverts of radiation. You can compare this to the amount of radiation a typical person would be exposed to over a period of about seven weeks. The average radiation exposure over a one-year period for the typical population is 3 millisieverts.
At one time, this diagnostic procedure was expensive, and insurance may not have always covered the examination completely. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. The Affordable Care Act dictates that mammogram procedures are free, never involving copays or deductibles. It’s also possible to schedule an appointment for a free exam at clinics designed to provide free health care to women, and those with Medicare should be covered for free, as well.
It’s a commonly held belief that you will suffer pain and discomfort during a mammogram. You may experience discomfort during the actual procedure. However, each breast will be compressed for only about 20 or 30 seconds, a short time considering the importance of the examination. You can take steps to minimize your discomfort. First, schedule your test for the first week after your period ends if you are premenopausal. Secondly, take an over-the-counter analgesic about one hour before the test to help you manage any discomfort. As you undergo the test, use breathing exercises and imagery to help reduce any pain you experience.
Take time out of your busy schedule to attend to this basic health care need. Even when you eat a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise, you can’t completely eliminate your risk for breast cancer. The entire procedure usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes from start to finish. Once you’re done, you can feel confident that you are doing your part to take care of your health.