How to Prepare for Your Next Screening
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

How to Prepare for Your Next Screening

The Do's & Don'ts of Mammograms

Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) revised its recommendations regarding mammograms to be in closer alignment with the long-standing standard set by The American College of Radiology (ACR). Now, both organizations recommend women begin breast cancer screenings at age 40.

The primary reason for beginning mammograms at age 40 has to do with the growing incidence of breast cancer among women in their 40s. Recent research from the National Cancer Institute found that diagnosis of breast cancer among women in their 40s increased an average of 2% per year between 2015 and 2019. Getting regular mammograms starting at 40 increases your chances of catching breast cancer—the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the US—in the earliest stage when it is most treatable.

This new recommendation firmly places “schedule a screening” at the top of every woman’s mammogram to-do list.

Here is a look at other important dos and don’ts for your next scheduled mammogram:

DO schedule your screening for one week AFTER your period

If you have not gone through menopause, the best time for a mammogram is usually one week after the end of your period, when your breasts are not tender or sensitive.

DON’T wear deodorant or use other products on your underarm or breast area

Ingredients in common deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams, or perfumes can show up on your mammogram images, causing unnecessary concern and confusion. To avoid unwarranted additional screenings, skip these products the day of your screening.

DO bring any prior mammogram images

If you’re coming to the Breast Health and Imaging Center at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center from another facility for your mammogram, be sure to have your most recent (3- to 5-year’s-worth) breast-related imaging (including mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsies) and reports sent to your new screening location. This will provide the reviewing radiologist with valuable comparative insight for interpreting new imaging.

Requesting past reports and imaging is as easy as contacting the facility where you had your most recent screening and requesting to have images and reports sent on a CD directly to SVMC,  c/o Imaging 100 Hospital Drive, Bennington, VT  05201. Alternatively, you can request a CD for pick-up and bring it with you to your appointment.

DON’T wear jewelry on your neck or breast area

Any jewelry or piercings that extend into upper chest or breast area will need to be removed before imaging can be done. Leaving them at home will ensure your appointment goes smoothly and will prevent you from leaving anything behind.

DO mention any issues or changes related to your breasts

If you have experienced any changes to your breasts—including new tattoos or if you’re breastfeeding—be sure to mention them to your imaging specialists so they can be noted in the file for the reviewing radiologist.

DON’T overdress

Because you need to remove all clothing above the waist, wearing a two-piece outfit (e.g., shirt and pants or a skirt) may prevent you from feeling overexposed during your appointment. Also, because you need to stand for your mammogram and may be asked to reposition yourself by leaning forward, backward, or to the side, opt for flat or very low-heeled footwear that will make maneuvering a bit easier.

Again, the number one DO for mammograms is to schedule one.

If you have questions about when you should have your next screening, contact your doctor. If you are due, your doctor will provide an order. All you have to do is call community-wide scheduling at 802-447-5541 to schedule a screening mammogram.

Seline Skoug RN, MS, is the breast health nurse navigator at the Breast Health and Imaging Center at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. She can be reached at breastRNnavigator@svhealthcare.org or by phone at 802-440-4244.

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