It's October and everywhere you turn, you see the message, "get your annual mammogram." The question is, did you get the message and, more importantly did you get your mammogram yet?
What's that? You're too busy? You have no family history of breast cancer and besides, you're too young to worry about it? Let's put your reasons (okay, excuses) to the test and see if Alegent Creighton Health Nurse Practitioner Patti Higginbotham, ANP, AOCN, with the Breast Health Center backs them or busts them.
Excuse #1: Breast cancer doesn't run in my family, so I don't need to go.
Sorry, no excuse! Although it's one we hear a lot at the Breast Health Center, even among women well over age 40. That's when the American Cancer Society recommends annual screening. The reality is that most breast cancer (about 85 percent) occurs in women with very little or no family history.
Excuse #2: The mammogram is going to hurt.
Not a valid excuse. Higginbotham says whether or not a mammogram hurts depends on a variety of things like your individual pain tolerance, where you are in your menstrual cycle, the size of your breasts and even age. Here are some tips to make the experience a little more comfortable:
- If possible, time your mammogram between day 5 and day 10 of your menstrual cycle.
- Take Tylenol or Motrin one to two hours before going in for your appointment – it will help with any pain you might experience.
- Sometimes caffeine increases the sensitivity of your breasts. Try to cut down on caffeine for a couple days leading up to your appointment.
- Expect breast compression even in a digital mammogram. Why? Compression is needed to separate the breast tissue. Knowing what to expect lowers your anxiety, which helps you relax and makes the mammogram easier.
Excuse #3: I'm too busy.
Busted! While this is a very common excuse, it's not a good one. Everyone can take 45 minutes once a year for a simple screening that can save their life. It's all about priorities.
Excuse #4: I'm scared of what I'll find.
Nope. No excuse. Try to remember that knowledge is power. If you are afraid to the point of not getting a mammogram, talk about it with a friend, your mother or even your doctor.
Excuse #5: I'm too young for breast cancer.
Close, but sorry, no excuse. Higginbotham says unfortunately breast cancer is not picky when it comes to age. While it's true that breast cancer occurs more commonly in "post-menopausal women" (after age 50), breast cancer can and does occur in younger, premenopausal women. Don't pass off a lump in the breast as nothing because you are presumably "too young to get breast cancer." Seek professional opinions until you get a clear explanation for the lump or until follow up is complete.
Mammograms are available at all Alegent Creighton Health hospitals. For more information, visit AlegentCreighton.com/Mammogram or call 1-800-ALEGENT.