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Hamilton Health Sciences Home
October 18, 2016

How to prepare for a mammogram

Who needs to get screened?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Regional Cancer Program, in partnership with Cancer Care Ontario, is inviting eligible women to ‘Just Book It’ by scheduling their mammogram appointment. The average mammogram screening takes just five minutes to book and less than 10 minutes to complete.

The Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) offers free screening to women aged 50 to 74 with no signs of breast cancer. It’s recommended that these women get a mammogram every two years since early detection through mammography can result in significant health benefits including increased treatment options and better survival rates.

Research by the OBSP found women on the younger end of this spectrum, aged 50 to 54, make up the largest number of screen-eligible women who have not booked their mammogram appointments. Of the 54,735 eligible women in that age group for this region, almost half (46.3 per cent) are overdue for their mammogram or have never been screened.

What should I expect?

First-timers may be intimidated by the idea of a mammogram, but the process is very quick and straight forward. Ann Foster, a senior mammography technologist with the Ontario Breast Screening Program, has some tips for preparing for your first mammogram.

The first step, of course, is to book it. Eligible women can schedule their mammogram appointments at any OBSP site or by calling 1-800-668-9304.

How to prepare for a mammogram

  • Wear a two-piece outfit since you’ll be asked to remove your top.
  • Do not use deodorants, antiperspirants, body lotions, or talcum powders. Metals in these products can show up on the X-ray picture.
  • Avoid wearing necklaces or long earrings, since metals can show up in the x-ray.
  • Keep longer hair tied or pinned up so it’s not in the way.
  • Most women’s breasts are tender the week before and after their period. Book your mammogram for a time when your breasts are not so tender.
  • Some women take a mild pain relief pill, such as the kind you would take for a headache, one to two hours before the appointment. Only do this if it will not affect any other medicines or any health concerns you may have.
  • Some experts suggest having less caffeine for two weeks before the appointment to help reduce tenderness.
  • If you’re apprehensive about your mammogram, try bringing a friend and making a day of it to ease your nerves