Tips for Women, by Women
No woman looks forward to having her breasts squashed in a mammogram machine. In fact, 12% of women miss their screening appointments because of how uncomfortable they can be. But breast cancer screening plays a major role in improving early cancer detection rates.
Since 1990, mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40%. With a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer – there has to be a way to make mammograms less miserable. Right?
To find out – we asked women for their best tips and tricks to make mammograms less miserable. So the next time you consider putting off your screening, instead, overcome your mammogram worries and take control of your breast health.
Communicate with the Technician
"In the past, whenever I went for a mammogram, I’d always get a little anxious the day of. I’d arrive at the clinic and feel myself tense up just thinking about the cold plates and the discomfort I was about to experience. I have back problems, so the pain from the exam can be quite intense. When the lab tech came in, I’d let her take the pictures and stay quiet. I’d just grin and bear it and that would be it. But the last time I went, I decided to discuss my concerns before she started.
At one point during the exam, it was hurting a lot, so I told her and she said ‘ok, let’s stop and take a break’. When we started again, she tried a few different positions and they were much more comfortable. She managed to get the rest of the pictures without causing me any pain.
Communication made a huge difference. Because of our discussion at the beginning, I felt free to say whatever I needed to tell her regarding the process. And the experience was much better. Now I’m not fearing or dreading the next one I have to go to. I know all I have to do is talk to the technician. It helped me quite a bit just knowing that they’re happy to help make it easier."
Schedule Your Appointment with a Friend
"My girlfriends and I all complain about our mammograms. It’s horrible having your breasts squashed as far as your body allows! After many lunch dates where one of us had just come from our appointments, we thought – why not schedule them on the same day? It’s nice people able to support each other on the day of. And because we’re all experience it together, we can joke about it and laugh together instead of feeling miserable. Not all of us use the same clinic, but a few of us will always manage to meet up for lunch afterward. A day I used to dread is now ironically one I look forward to."
Get a Second Opinion
"I have a lot of breast cancer in my family – so I’m always very nervous each time I get screened. To help calm my nerves and relieve my anxiety, I get a second opinion on my scans. It’s super fast. It’s easy. And it gives me the reassurance I need. The way I see it, two eyes are always better than one. I’d much rather catch something early than have it be missed. It’s a habit I got into and one that I encourage all my female friends to adopt. When it comes to your health, ignorance is not bliss."
Bring Your Favorite Calming Scent
"My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. She had a mastectomy, but fortunately, the cancer was caught early enough to treat. Because of my family history, my doctor recommended I start screening early so I had my first mammogram at 26.
I DREAD the painfully uncomfortable machine; however, I know the importance of having mammograms done. To help make my screenings less unpleasant, I always bring a favorite calming scent or essential oil. When I’m in the changing room, I dab a tiny amount of Vick’s or roll some jasmine scent essential oil on my top lip. It helps take my mind off the exam and puts me in a much calmer state."
Schedule Your Pap Smear to Coincide with Your Mammogram
"I’ve never met a woman who looked forward to her mammogram. Which makes it easy to skip! But I know how important they are, and I wholeheartedly believe we need to make sure we have as much information about our health as possible. To help ease the process, I always schedule my pap smear and breast screening appointments on the same day. It’s so much easier to just get it all over with in one go. I’m way less likely to forget to set up my appointment and I always end up feeling productive and happy at the end of the day."
Focus on Peace of Mind
"To help take the edge off the dread I feel toward mammograms – I try and focus on the fact that staying on top of my screenings gives me peace of mind. Knowing I’m getting it done regularly, and knowing that everything is fine, always outweighs the discomfort."