Mammograms Demystified

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guide to your first mammogram

Have you been putting off your mammogram? Busy doesn't count as an excuse. You make time for your kids wellness visits and you need to make time for yourself. But for many of us, it's not just time. Mammograms are scary.

Are you also scaredof getting your first mammogram? I admit I was too when I got my first one a few years ago. I wondered if it would hurt. But that wasn't really it. I was scared something would be found and my life would change forever. As a mom, doctor visits bring a new meaning. We're the glue that keeps the family together. As I made my first appointment I wondered if the scan would find something. Then the mind goes to dark places. Envisioning weddings and graduations happening without you. I started pondering who would teach the girls how to blow bubbles, create the perfect ponytail or mend a broken heart if I wasn't around.

Cancer is a bi@#$. It doesn't care about our future plans. But friends, I'm here to tell you. Don't let fear drive the bus.

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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this year Hanes is teaming up with the National Breast Cancer Foundation [NBCF] to help generate awareness among women about the importance of receiving mammograms. They reached out to me to ask how breast cancer has impacted my life. Mostly it's been through seeing my mom's 60+ age friends struggle with cancer (with a few losing the battle) and seeing a few moms at our school go through chemo (successfully, thank god).

Here's what I know: early detection saves lives. Hanes is all about comfort and my hope is that walking you through the mammogram process might help women who may be hesitant to receive a mammogram.

Step 1. Make the appointment. Depending on your doctor, your medical history and your health coverage the first time visit may vary. I had my first mammogram at 40 and have had one every year since then. TIP: Try to go to the same imaging center every year. You'll develop a rapport with the office and be more likely to remember to schedule them each year. I go to Columbia Doctors Midtown. They are kind, efficient and the offices are clean and modern.

Step 2. Prep for the appointment. This means getting there on time and not canceling! Do not use deodorant, powder, or lotion on the breast or underarm area on the morning of your appointment. If available, please bring old mammogram films with you or have them sent from the previous facility. VERY IMPORTANT: If you are given a prescription or requisition form from your doctor BRING IT! Otherwise you might not get reimbursed. I don't know why this can't be done electronically, but alas it's still paper.

Step 3. Head to the changing room. You'll have to take your top and bra off. TIP: Don't wear a dress. I find it more comfortable to wear pants. The doctors office will give you a robe. Sometimes it's freezing, so bring a sweater.

Step 4. Wait. Depending on what's going on, it could be 5 or 50 minutes. Bring something to read (I catch up on emails or read the New Yorker). Be zen. I usually think that the women who are in front of me might have had something pop up during the screening. I'd rather the technicians be thorough than fast.

Step 5. Squish time. You'll head into the room with the imaging machine. A mammogram is an image of the breast that is made by using low-dose x-rays. You'll wear a lead vest over your waist to protect you from the radiation. While standing in front of the mammography machine, your breast will be compressed between two plates. Yes, it hurts. It is very uncomfortable for a very short time. My technicians have always been efficient. When the plates will come together to make the breast as flat as possible it is just unpleasant. But better than dying from undetected cancer, no? Usually you will have two views performed, from the side and top.

Step 6. Wait again. This time the tech takes the images to a doctor to read the results. If it's all clear woo-hoo! Get dressed and go home. In my case I have dense breasts (read more about that here). I often have to go back in for a second set of pictures which always freaks me out. But I know they are looking for more detail. If there is something unusual then you will likely be speaking with a doctor. They try to move fast to get the unanswered questions answered.

The first visit was a little nerve-wracking. I didn't know what dense breast tissue meant and I broke out into a sweat when they called me back in for a second scan. I thought about calling my mom, my husband, my best friend--but I didn't have time to dial before they had me back in the vice-grip. Hearing "we'd like you to come back in so we can take a look at something," never makes you happy. But getting early news and finding out your baseline readings are vital.

For most of you it's going to be six steps and done. It's a few hours out of your day with travel time but so, so important to you and your family. Don't wait. Book yours now. We all want to see our girls grow up, we all want to cuddle grandbabies. Not knowing isn't a solution or a cancer cure.

As a part of this effort, Hanes will be donating $50,000 to the NBCF. In addition, Hanes is also bringing back the Mammogram Monologues. The Mammogram Monologues are a series of blog posts created by select influencers that impart knowledge and offer inspiration.

Visit Hanes on Facebook to access more Mammogram Monologue testimonials.

More resources:

For more information if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer visit http://beyondtheshock.com/. Beyond the Shock® is first and foremost a resource for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Secondly, it is for their loved ones to gain a better understanding of the disease and to feel a stronger sense of connection. Finally, it is for doctors to reinforce their instruction and advice.

For more information on breast cancer visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation website www.nationalbreastcancer.org 

This post was sponsored by Hanes to help promote breast cancer awareness. All opinions and thoughts are my own. This is not a scripted post.

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