Mammography is a powerful tool, but as we discussed in the post on the physical discomforts, there seem to be as many reactions to the procedure as there are women. Today we will spend some time talking about the fears that may keep women from making that yearly appointment.
Annual screening mammograms are done not because an issue is present (see our post on screening vs diagnostic
), but to confirm one is not. Most screening mammograms result in a clean bill of health – no evidence of problems, and we’ll see you in 12 months. So one of the biggest fears – fears your screening mammogram will be abnormal – is not founded in facts. Even if we do find something that needs a second look, most of those second-look tests turn out to be either normal tissue or a benign finding
. So, if fear of what we find has you worried, rest assured that most times the screening mammogram will show normal findings. If the mammogram does find a cancer, know that finding the cancer is the first step to becoming a survivor. Treatments and outcomes for breast cancer have improved drastically in the last decade alone – if found early, there is greater than 90% likelihood of achieving a cure!
Some women have reservations about the radiation that is used in mammography.The most important thing to know is this: the radiation used in a mammogram is extremely low dose. The risks of the radiation causing any damage are theoretic (meaning noone has seen a case where mammography related radiation caused a tumor). The amount of radiation required for a good image has decreased over the years with digital mammograms reducing the dose even further. The only time radiation is a concern is if you are pregnant. If you are pregnant, we will delay doing routine screening mammography (although we may use it in rare instances in diagnostic evaluations) to avoid radiation to the fetus.
Waiting for results can be stressful! Unlike other radiology tests, laws require direct communication of results of your mammomgram to you. Mammography facilites vary, but the majority will have results to you within 2 weeks. There are some practices that will give you results the same-day or prior to leaving the office! If anxiety over results is significant for you, try to find a clinic that can provide that or at least learn their standard wait time so you are prepared.
Knowledge is the first step is addressing many of the psychological fears about mammography. If you still have questions or fears we haven’t addressed, talk with your health care provider. If you know of someone not getting their yearly mammogram because of fear, share the link and share your experiences. Relax, research, share and learn. Together we can reach our goal of every woman getting the screening they need.