Mammograms, in conjunction with breast examinations by a health professional and monthly breast self-exams, are the best means of detecting breast disease in its earliest stages. A mammogram can detect a tumor too small to be felt and is “the most effective method for detecting early-stage breast cancer,” according to the National Cancer Institute. Mammography is a simple, low-dose breast x-ray.
The procedure takes less than 30 minutes. Technologists specialize in performing mammography with sensitivity to women’s concerns. Prior to the exam, the technologist will review a brief questionnaire with you about your health history. It is requested that you not use powders or deodorants on the day of your mammogram. These products often contain substances that interfere with obtaining a high-quality mammogram. Some women find the procedure slightly uncomfortable. Women may wish to schedule the mammogram during the week following menstruation, when breasts may be less sensitive.
When to have a screening mammogram
The American Cancer Society suggests the following guidelines:
Women with a family history of breast cancer may be eligible for an annual screening mammography before age 40. Consult your health care provider and insurer for the schedule appropriate for you.