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Make the most of your mammogram

Planning, preparation and follow-up can help you get more from mammograms.

If you're 45 or older, regular mammograms belong on your to-do list. This screening test offers substantial benefits for fighting breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

To get the full benefit of this tool, try the tips below.

Plan ahead

It's essential to get this test regularly. If your doctor's office or insurance company doesn't mail you reminders, find some way to remind yourself, says Robert A. Smith, PhD, senior director, cancer control, at the ACS.

Try to find a facility you like that specializes in mammograms so you can keep going to the same place. If you move or start going to a different facility, ask about having your x-rays transferred to the new facility. These records should be at the mammogram facility before you go for your test, Dr. Smith says.

If you're still having menstrual periods, schedule your mammograms a week after your period. Your breasts are less likely to be tender, and some research suggests women get more accurate test results in this phase of their menstrual cycle.

Go prepared

On the day of the test, don't wear deodorant or lotions. They can interfere with the x-ray. And remember you'll need to undress from the waist up, so you may want to wear a skirt or pants instead of a dress.

Bring a list of where and when you've had mammograms, biopsies or other breast treatments before. Prepare yourself to talk about any symptoms or problems you're having with your breasts, hormone use, family or personal history of breast cancer, and any previous surgeries.

Follow up

If you haven't received your results 10 days after the test, call your doctor or the testing center.

reviewed 12/2/2019

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