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I am 43 years old and today, I had my first mammogram. It was nothing like I imagined it would be, so I figured I would share my experience with those of you that have your first mammogram coming up.
The CDC describes a mammogram as an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.
Growing up, I remember driving by a shopping plaza and thinking that the outside sign said “Breast Squeezing”. So when my Mom told me she was going there, I asked her if she was going to get her breasts squeezed. She said while that was pretty much what happens, the sign actually said “Breast Screening.” I still call it breast squeezing to this day.
For years, I would ask about getting a mammogram when I went to my gynecologist. At 30, I was told to wait until I was 35. At 35, they told me to wait until I was 40. At 40, I was told that it wasn’t necessary if I didn’t have any pain or discomfort and didn’t have a family history of breast cancer in my immediate family (mother or grandmother).
So, while I watched my friends and family go for their annual mammograms for over ten years, I continued to wait and hoped that I was doing the right thing.
At my last annual well-woman appointment in May of this year, my gynecologist recommended that I schedule a mammogram every two years until I turn 50, at which point I should go every year.
I scheduled my first mammogram for 8 weeks after my second Covid vaccine. The CDC recommends that you wait 6-8 weeks after your second vaccine. It has something to do with possible inflammation in your lymph nodes I believe.
I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment and waited patiently for them to call me back. I was eventually led into a small changing room where I was told to remove my bra and top and put on a gown with the opening in the front. She also asked that I use a wipe to remove my deodorant.
Once I was undressed, I walked into the room with the mammogram machine. She positioned me in front and I told her that this was my first mammogram. She assured me that it would be quick and painless.
She asked me to remove the left side of my gown and hold onto the machine. She then told me to look toward the right (there was a wreath with seashells). She then lifted my left breast onto the machine and positioned me so that the plastic part was directly above my breast and my armpit was resting on the machine (hence why you need to remove your deodorant).
She stepped back to the computer area, pressed a button and the plastic part lowered, to press my left breast so that the machine could take a number of X-rays. Once that was complete (less than a minute later), she repositioned me to do the same thing on the right side.
Once I was done, she had me put my gown back on and return to the changing room to get dressed. I dropped my gown in the provided laundry bin and on the way out, she handed me a piece of paper with instructions on how to access my results, which would be arriving via email within 24-48 hours. That time may vary, depending on your doctor’s office.
About 24 hours later, I received an email, letting me know that my mammogram results were negative. It was a relief to know that I have nothing to worry about and recommend that everyone do their screenings as soon as their doctor recommends.
Tips for Your First Mammogram
- Try not to schedule your mammogram the week before you get your period or during your period. Your breasts may be tender or swollen then.
- On the day of your mammogram, don’t wear deodorant, perfume, or powder as they can show up as white spots on the X-ray.
- Wear a top and bottom, instead of a dress since you will need to undress from your waist up for the mammogram.
If you have any questions about my first mammogram, feel free to leave them below or send me a quick message. I’m more than happy to answer what I can!