About The Author
Sharon Kaplon, DNP, APNP
Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner
Affinity Medical Group, part of Ascension Wisconsin
Finding breast cancer during its earliest stages significantly lowers your risk of dying from the disease. That’s why getting regular mammograms could very well save your life. These routine screening tests help detect breast cancer during its earliest, most treatable stages – resulting in better outcomes.
Most women between the ages of 50-74 should get a mammogram every 1-2 years. But those at a higher risk for breast cancer should consider starting earlier. After assessing your risk, your doctor can help determine when you should start getting mammograms and how often you should get one. Some risk factors, such as age, family history and ethnicity, are beyond your control. But improving your overall health and maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise and not smoking can help lower your risk.
When it’s time to get a mammogram, start with researching imaging facilities to find one that feels comfortable. When making your appointment, don’t be afraid to ask questions that will help you understand what will happen during the screening. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s best to avoid scheduling a mammogram when your breasts are more tender or swollen – typically the week before you start menstruating.
The day of your mammogram you should avoid wearing deodorant because it can cause inaccurate test results. During the screening, the technician will place your breasts on a flat, padded surface. You might feel a bit of discomfort but it shouldn’t be painful. Typically mammograms take 20-30 minutes from start to finish.
One criticism of traditional 2D mammography is that it can result in false positives. This tends to occur more often with women with dense breasts. To address this issue, Ascension Wisconsin now offers 3D mammography at select imaging locations. This new screening technology provides more detail and a sharper image to help reduce the number of false positives. As a result, fewer women undergo unneeded biopsies. Not all health insurance providers cover 3D mammography so we recommend checking ahead of your appointment to find out what will be covered.