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First Mammogram? We’ve Got You Covered

If you’ve recently turned 40, happy birthday! Enjoy your cake and ice cream… and then schedule your mammogram.

“Most women should get their first annual mammograms beginning at age 40, though high-risk women may be advised by their doctor to begin earlier,” said January Lopez, M.D., a fellowship trained breast imaging specialist, board-certified diagnostic radiologist and medical director of Breast Imaging at Hoag Breast Centers.

What should you know before you go? Dr. Lopez has answers to your most pressing questions:

What is a screening mammogram? A screening mammogram is a low dose X-ray exam that takes images of the breast to detect breast cancer early. “Mammograms have been shown in numerous studies to save lives,” Dr. Lopez said. “At Hoag, we offer gold-standard screening mammography as well as the latest 3D, MRI and ultrasound technology to help detect breast cancer as early as possible, which improves outcomes and saves lives.”



How do I prepare for a mammogram? Avoid deodorant, lotions, or perfumes on the day of your screening, as these can interfere with the interpretation of the images.





What happens during a mammogram? “Upon arrival, you will be provided with a comfortable robe, and asked to undress from the waist up,” she said. “During the mammogram, your technologist will talk you through the procedure and position your breasts one at a time in between imaging plates.”




Does it hurt? Pressure is required to achieve the clearest images possible, but each image only takes 2-4 seconds. If you experience discomfort, please inform your technologist and they can adjust the pressure. Consider scheduling your mammogram during the second week of your menstrual cycle (one week after your period) to help avoid tenderness.




What happens after my mammogram? “Once the mammogram is complete, a dedicated Hoag breast radiologist will interpret the results, typically the next business day. Soon after, the report will be available in the electronic medical record system or
as a mailed letter,” Dr. Lopez said.



Why did the guidelines recently change? “This has been the cry from women across America since the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) changed the recommended age to start breast cancer screening with mammograms from 40 to 50 in 2009. This caused a 15-yearlong rift in recommended screening guidelines, conflicting with those of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, American College of Radiology, Society of Breast Imaging, and American Society of Breast Surgeons, who continue to recommend the approach proven to save the most lives… annual mammography screening starting at age 40,” said Dr. Lopez. “Meanwhile, women in the U.S. have been left confused and conflicted for over a decade, unsure whether to begin screening at age 40 or 50. On Tuesday, May 9, 2023, the USPSTF took a leap towards clarity for women, releasing a draft of their new recommendations proposing a return to screening starting at age 40, realigning with other major societal guidelines. This is a landmark day. Over 60,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed annually with breast cancer between the ages of 40-49. Earlier screening means more lives saved.”

Hoag’s team of fellowship trained breast radiologists and convenient breast imaging locations across Orange County are ready to help you achieve optimal breast health. To schedule an appointment, please click here.