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Published on October 29, 2012

Your First Mammogram – Nothing To Fear

While there is some debate about when a woman should get her first mammogram, there is plenty of evidence that shows that screening for breast cancer helps defeat the disease and saves lives; early detection is critical for beating the disease.

And yet, many women put off getting that first mammogram. And while a busy lifestyle is a significant reason for some women not to get around to it, there’s often something else: Fear.

“For many women, if their first experience is not a bad one, they will be more likely to return,” said C. Amy Wilson, M.D., director of Breast Imaging for Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “For those with a strong family history of breast cancer, close friends with a history of breast cancer, or personal history of “call backs,” there can be a lot of anxiety surrounding routine mammography.
Here is a look at some of the fears women typically have about getting a mammogram for the first time, and suggested ways to overcome those fears.

  • I’m afraid it’s going to hurt. It’s true, mammograms can be uncomfortable. Your breasts are compressed briefly in different positions as the mammogram X-rays are taken. However, it only lasts for a few seconds. Some patients may be aided by a numbing gel that alleviates some of the pain.
  • I’m afraid they’ll find something. The whole point of getting a mammogram is to find out whether or not you have cancer, so that if you do treatment can begin as early as possible. Obviously, it’s better to know than to not know – knowledge is power. But no one would deny that the fear of the unknown is paralyzing in many situations, and the possibility of breast cancer is one of these situations for many women. If you do have breast cancer, it’s better to know as soon as possible; delaying can be deadly. It’s important to understand that you won't walk out of your appointment with a cancer diagnosis; something suspicious will mean more tests. So, yes, ignorance is bliss … but the bliss fades quickly if you’re diagnosed too late.
  • I’m afraid of undressing in front of others. Some women might not be comfortable with their bodies. ut being modest or shy is not a good enough reason to risk your life.
  • I’m afraid of how much it’s going to cost. If money is an issue, there are options. Specifically, for women enrolled in Medicare, 80 percent of the cost of an annual preventive mammogram is covered; you pay 20 percent.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to get a mammogram is yours. Wilson says the staff understands that women are often afraid, but they work with patients to make the process as easy as possible.

“Once they are here, our technologists are excellent at reassuring patients, and going ‘at their pace,’” she says.

The downside risk of not getting screened and therefore failing to catch cancer early far outweighs any trepidation you might feel before the test.

So don’t treat it as optional – see your doctor and get screened when you turn 40.

Crozer-Keystone offers five locations throughout the county where you can get a mammography. To schedule an appointment, call 1-866-5-CK-XRAY (1-866-525-9729) or visit http://ckimaging.crozerkeystone.org.

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