A trip to the doctor is a nervous situation we have all faced. Many are uncomfortable with extensive questions and examinations, but they are crucial for a doctor to help us with our ailments. A mammogram is one such examination that can make a woman’s heart miss a beat. 

Mammography is a special type of X-ray imaging method used to investigate breast tissue. It helps to detect breast cancer early, which massively improves your chances of complete cure.

 The procedure requires you to place your breast on a plastic plate, and another plate will be lowered onto the top surface to flatten your breast. This helps to get a detailed image of your breast tissue.

Read on as we separate facts from the many myths that revolve around this crucial test.

+ - Myth #1- Mammograms are always painful
Mammograms are handled well by most women but maybe painful to some. Many women do experience some discomfort, but the benefits of examining your breast more deeply, far outweigh the brief discomfort. One thing worth keeping in mind is to schedule your mammogram according to your menstrual cycle. If you are a week before your period, and currently on your period, it is recommended to get another date, as most women experience swollen and tender breasts during this time(What Is a Mammogram? | CDC, n.d.).

If you experience any discomfort, you can ask your radiographer to reduce the pressure on your breasts, a concept called “patient-controlled compression,” which could significantly improve your experience (Askhar & Zaki, 2017).
+ - Myth #2 – If I have breast implants, I cannot take a mammogram.
Mammograms can be taken even if you have breast implants. Mammograms are often used to assess the condition of an implant(Shah & Jankharia, 2016). If you have any concerns, it is always best to speak to your doctor before taking a mammogram and to inform the radiographer that you have implants. This will help them take the necessary precautions and steps.
+ - Myth #3 - Unsafe Radiation
Mammograms work by using a small amount of radiation to obtain an image of the deep tissues of your breast. The radiation is so minute that it is safe enough for a lady who is pregnant to take a mammogram as well (though healthy pregnant women with no signs of breast cancer will not need a mammogram) (American Cancer Society, 2020). Furthermore, the Mammogram quality control act makes sure that machines used in diagnostic imaging are safe to be used by patients and are maintained to stringent standards. (Mammography Quality Standards Act Regulations | FDA, n.d.)

Overall benefits of early diagnosis of breast cancer far outweigh the minute amount of radiation involved (Feig & Hendrick, 1997). However, spacing out mammograms to reduce the radiation exposure over time can help put your mind at ease.
+ - Myth #4 – A healthy mammogram means I don’t need to do it again.
A mammogram is a test that should be routinely performed to catch early signs of breast cancer. Therefore, even if your recent mammogram came out normal, it does not mean that you will not develop breast cancer in the future. Therefore, it is vital to routinely screen for breast cancer by doing mammograms periodically. A mammogram every one to two years is a recommended frequency for a person who does not have a history of cancer. (CDC, n.d.)
+ - Myth #5 – A doctor should recommend or prescribe a mammogram
A doctor doesn’t have to recommend that you do a mammogram. If you want to be on the safer side, it is well within your rights to visit a clinic and request one. (CDC, n.d.) Many doctors will recommend a periodic mammogram, but even if they happen to forget, you can maintain an annual mammogram to help screen for early signs of breast cancer.

It’s your precious life after all, right?
 American Cancer Society. (2020). Mammogram Basics. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/mammograms/mammogram-basics.html
Askhar, L. K., & Zaki, Y. H. (2017). Female patients’ perception of pain caused by mammography in the Western Region of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Medical Journal, 38(7), 768–771. https://doi.org/10.15537/smj.2017.7.19298
CDC. (n.d.). Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines for Women. Retrieved June 17, 2021, from http://www.aafp.org/dam/AAFP/documents/patient_care/clinical_recommendations/cps-recommendations.
Feig, S. A., & Hendrick, R. E. (1997). Radiation risk from screening mammography of women aged 40-49 years. In Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Monographs (Issue 22, pp. 119–124). J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. https://doi.org/10.1093/jncimono/1997.22.119
Mammography Quality Standards Act Regulations | FDA. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/regulations-mqsa/mammography-quality-standards-act-regulations
Shah, A. T., & Jankharia, B. B. (2016). Imaging of common breast implants and implant-related complications: A pictorial essay. In Indian Journal of Radiology and Imaging (Vol. 26, Issue 2, pp. 216–225). Medknow Publications. https://doi.org/10.4103/0971-3026.184409
What Is a Mammogram? | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/mammograms.htm
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