It’s normal to feel anxious about getting a mammogram, especially if you haven’t had one before. However, mammograms are proven to be the best screening for early diagnosis of breast cancer, so don’t let anxiety stop you.
If you are age 40 or older, you should be scheduling a mammogram annually. And if you have particular risk factors for breast cancer, you may need to begin them earlier—something your doctor can determine. Unfortunately, some women don’t get them due to fear. Meghan Musser, DO, radiologist at Kettering Health Network and medical director of Kettering Breast Evaluation Centers, addresses some of the most common concerns.
I’m afraid it will hurt.
According to Dr. Musser, one of the most common fears is that mammograms are going to hurt. For some patients, mammograms aren’t comfortable, but there are steps you can take to reduce potential pain.
If you notice increased breast pain or tenderness during your menstrual cycle, schedule your mammogram at other times of the month.
When you go in for your appointment, don’t be afraid to speak up.
“Give feedback to the technologist in the room with you,” says Dr. Musser. “They will be able to help with positioning to get you as comfortable as possible.”
I’m embarrassed about being unclothed.
Because of the nature of mammography, women are required to undress to some degree, but keep in mind why you and the technologist are there.
“We strive to treat every patient with the utmost respect,” Dr. Musser says. “While being unclothed isn’t comfortable, we aim to create a comfortable and professional environment.”
Patients are only asked to expose one breast at a time during the mammogram and can keep the rest of themselves covered.
I’m anxious about radiation exposure.
There is radiation with every mammogram; however, the amount to which you are exposed is extremely small.
“The amount of radiation per mammogram is equivalent to about seven weeks of normal radiation we are exposed to from the atmosphere,” Dr. Musser says. “It’s a very small amount of radiation and highly regulated to make sure the levels are safe.”
I don’t want to receive poor results.
It’s very understandable that a woman wouldn’t want to find out she has breast cancer. However, mammograms are essential in detecting cancer early if there’s anything to detect at all. Most of the time, only about 10% of patients get called back after a mammogram, and an even smaller percentage of those called back actually have an abnormality such as cancer.
“We understand the fear of an abnormal result, but our goal is to try and find cancer when it’s small, so you would need the least amount of treatment and have the best possible outcome,” Dr. Musser says.
Take the step
Schedule a mammogram at ketteringhealth.org/iwill