The Emotional Side of Mammograms: Coping With Anxiety and Fear

Having a mammogram, or X-ray pictures of the breast, can stir up a lot of emotions. Many women put off or delay these important screenings for fear of the results and the discomfort they might experience. Will a mammogram hurt? What if my radiologist finds something unusual? When will I find out the results? How will I cope with an abnormal test result?

It’s important to acknowledge the fear and anxiety around screening mammograms while also recognizing how valuable these screenings are.

Mammograms are used for early detection and to guide treatment decisions for breast cancer. Finding breast cancer early is one the most important ways to prevent deaths from breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Ease Emotions: When to Get a Mammogram

For many women, scheduling a mammogram can be the first challenge. To start, talk with your OB-GYN or PCP about your family history and risk factors for breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram at the following intervals:

  • Ages 40–44: Women have the option to start annual mammograms.
  • Ages 45–54: Women should get annual mammograms.
  • Ages 55 and older: Women should get mammograms every other year or annually, if they choose.

Help ease some fear about mammograms by understanding that routine mammograms can significantly increase your chance of breast cancer survival. According to the American Cancer Society, research shows that women who have routine mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer discovered early and are less likely to require aggressive treatments.

Understand Your Risk for Breast Cancer

It’s important to discuss your personal health history and family health history with your healthcare provider. Personal history and family history of breast or ovarian cancer can increase your risk for breast cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other risk factors that increase your chance of breast cancer include:

  • Aging, because your risk for breast cancer increases with age between ages 30 and 70
  • Having dense breast tissue.
  • Inherited genetic mutations, such as those on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which can increase a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Starting periods early (before age 12) or starting menopause late (after age 55)

 

Some women at high risk for breast cancer may need more intense breast screenings that could include a breast MRI or a breast ultrasound in addition to their annual mammogram. High risk is determined based on family history and lifetime risk of breast cancer, including having certain genetic mutations or first-degree relatives with the genetic mutation.

Face the Fears and Increase Your Knowledge About Mammograms

It’s normal to feel anxious about how a mammogram will feel, what to expect or what the results will be

Schedule an appointment at a location that performs routine imaging services, including 2D and 3D mammograms. If this is your first time at a new location, bring any imaging results from past mammograms, as well as a list of places and dates of any previous mammograms or breast biopsies. This will help inform your technologist and radiologist who will read and review your mammogram of any changes since the last screening.

Talk with your medical provider, as well as the mammography technologist, about how and when you’ll receive your mammogram results. If you have questions about your results, reach out to your medical provider to discuss any findings and next steps.

When scheduling, pick a date a week or two after your period, when your breasts are less tender. You may experience less discomfort during the test.

During Your Mammogram Appointment

After scheduling a mammogram, get ready for the day of the imaging study. Skip deodorants, perfumes and lotions on or around your chest, as these may appear on X-ray images. Wear a two-piece outfit so you can easily remove your top and bra for the mammogram.

During your appointment, talk to the technologist about any recent changes, lumps or discomfort in your breast. Doing so will help the technologist get the best images possible.

A mammogram typically takes about 15 minutes, and the imaging itself takes 10 to 20 seconds per image. The imaging technologist will move your body to achieve the best angle for an image.

During the mammogram, the breast will be compressed or flattened between two plates. Some women find this uncomfortable. However, this positioning enables the technologist to get a clearer view of the breast tissue.

After the mammogram, take a deep breath! By completing this imaging study, you’re gaining more knowledge and information about your health and well-being.

Other Tips to Manage Mammogram Emotions

Reduce anxiety and emotions around mammograms with these other tips:

  • Share your concerns. Talk with your medical provider about anxiety or fear about mammograms, breast cancer or other life-threatening cancers. Similarly, share your fears or concerns with a friend or family member. You’re not alone.
  • Schedule ahead. At your mammogram appointment, go ahead and schedule next year’s mammogram—you’ll have one less call to make.

Call (507) 934-7632 to schedule your mammogram at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic.

 

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