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What to Expect from Your First Mammogram

What to Expect from Your First Mammogram

It seems like everyone knows someone who has had breast cancer — that’s because it's the most common type of cancer among women, except for skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 287,850 women in 2022 alone will receive the unfortunate news that they have breast cancer, and 43,250 of them won’t survive the disease. 

Mammograms are one of the most effective tools in the early detection of breast cancer, which is why we offer regular mammography screenings as part of our comprehensive women’s health services here at Four Peaks Primary Care & Internal Medicine in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Dr. Fayz Yar Khan and our team of medical experts know how important mammograms are in the fight against breast cancer, and if you’re due for your first-ever exam, we want you to feel comfortable and well-informed about what to expect and why it’s necessary. 

Why mammograms matter

You may think that since you feel fine and don’t have any breast lumps, there’s no way you can have breast cancer — but breast cancer is sneaky.

Many women have no symptoms whatsoever when they get their breast cancer diagnosis. The mammogram — a quick X-ray that checks your internal breast tissue for abnormalities — is the single most effective tool for detecting breast cancer before you know you have it.

Since 1990, breast cancer deaths have dropped by 40% thanks to mammograms. 

The mammogram schedule

Dr. Yar Khan may recommend you have your first mammogram at age 40, or at least give you the choice to start your yearly appointments. By age 45, most women should get a mammogram annually. By the time you reach age 55, you can move to an every-two-years schedule. 

However, if you have one or more of the known risk factors for breast cancer, Dr. Yar Khan may schedule your first mammogram at an earlier age and recommend you have them more frequently. Risk factors include:

Talk to Dr. Yar Khan about your medical history, your family’s medical history, and your lifestyle choices so he can help you reduce your risk for breast cancer and stay healthy for years to come.

All about your first mammogram

On the day of your mammogram, don’t use any deodorant, perfume, oils, lotions, or powders, as they can interfere with the imaging.

Once you arrive at our office, we take you to a room where you can remove your clothes from the waist up and put on a gown for privacy. 

The next stop is the mammogram room, where it’s just you and our technician. One at a time, she positions your breasts on a clear plastic plate and lowers another plastic plate from above. As the machine applies pressure, it flattens your breast as much as possible so the X-ray can scan the greatest area of tissue.

This pressure may feel uncomfortable, but most women say it’s not painful at all. It only takes a couple of seconds to capture the image, and then the pressure automatically releases. We take images from a few different angles, make sure they’re clear and complete, and your mammogram is over. The whole thing only takes about 15 minutes.

While you get dressed, we send your X-ray images to the radiologist, who reviews your scans and confers with Dr. Yar Khan about the results.

It’s not uncommon to get the news that your results show something abnormal. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. It may just mean you have a cyst or dense breast tissue. If Dr. Yar Khan needs more conclusive information, he may order additional tests, such as a breast MRI or biopsy.

Your first mammogram is the best way to establish a baseline for what’s normal for you. Then, we can compare future images to your first to see if there are any concerning changes.

Mammograms aren’t scary, and they don’t hurt — but they may save your life. To schedule your first mammogram, call our friendly staff or book it online today. 

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