OUCH! When to NOT get your mammogram

Nobody likes them, but mammograms are a necessary evil that all women over 40 must experience on an annual basis.  How can you assure that you get the best quality mammogram, with the quickest results without the horror story pain?

My name is Lisa Lopez and I am the lead mammography/patient navigator at Christus Santa Rosa Westover Hills.  I have been in the mammography business for over 25 years and here are my tips of the trade:

QUALITY IMAGING:  Only go to accredited facilities for your study; they have approved equipment, specialty trained physicians, and technologists. All CHRISTUS Santa Rosa facilities are accredited, or you can find a list on line at www.acr.org.

QUICK EXAM and RESULTS:  Know your breast health family history, personal breast surgery/biopsy dates, and where and when your prior mammograms were performed.  If possible, bring your prior studies with you. These images reduce the rate in which patients need to return for additional images and decrease the amount of time it takes to receive results in the mail.  Both of these reduce your worry time!

PAIN:  Knowledge is power and knowing why that evil technologist is smashing your breast between two hard, cold plates helps you to help us, so here we go:

  1. Thicker tissue equals more radiation dose; basically the thinner we can get the tissue, the less radiation.
  2.  The breast is a 3 dimensional body part, so the compression allows for us to spread that tissue out and enables us to see through it better. That gives us a better chance of discovering changes in tissue while they are still small.
  3. The compression reduces motion. Imagine taking a digital photo while moving – the picture is still there, but all of the detail is blurred away. It is the same in mammography; we need the sharpest of details to find the smallest of changes.

So, there’s the story behind the dreaded “smash.” Rest assured, you are only in the compression for about 10-15 seconds and the machine automatically releases you at the end of the exposure.

Other ways to reduce pain:

  • Don’t schedule your mammogram during or right before your menstrual cycle. If your breasts are tender already, compressing them is not going to be fun.
  • If your breasts are generally very sensitive, take a mild pain reliever prior to your exam (similar to what you would take for a headache).
  • RELAX!! Your technologist doesn’t want to hurt you. The more you can relax and allow her to position you, the quicker it will be.
  • HOLD STILL!! Moving around – even deep breathing – can cause motion, which means repeat images.

There you have it: quality, quick, and pain free mammograms.  CHRISTUS Santa Rosa wants your mammogram to be all of these things,and our team is here to provide you with the best mammogram experience possible.  Don’t be scared, come see us!

About CHRISTUS Santa Rosa

CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System was founded in 1869 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. The sisters heeded the call from the Catholic bishop of Texas to care for the multitude of sick, infirm, and orphaned in the Texas frontier. When the sisters arrived in San Antonio, the population was only 12,000 and there was no public hospital - until the sisters founded CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital.

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