Questions to Ask at your Next Breast Screening

A lot of us have been in a position where we hit a complete blank after we hear: “Do you have any questions?” But knowing what to ask your GP or breast health specialist is key.

Sometimes, it’s only when you’re on your way home that the questions come flooding into your mind, and you’re wishing you thought of them before you left. Making another appointment to go back costs time and money, so you’re usually stuck with unanswered questions or wondering if you should take to Google.

Thanks to advancements in imaging technology and radiology, the prevention and early detection of cancers—as well as patient outcomes—are improving all the time.

Being an advocate for your own breast health is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, so don’t wait for someone else to start the conversation. We want to help you prepare for the next time you go for a breast cancer check or mammogram.

Before we delve into the questions to ask during the screening, let’s answer some frequently asked questions surrounding screenings.

breast screening questions

1. Breast self-examination: how often should I do this?

Breast self-exams are important. One reason is that they help you to become “breast aware”.  It’s a good idea to follow the same technique and routine when doing self-examinations so that it can be comparable from month to month. It’s often recommended for women to perform self-exams during menstruation, simply because it’s much easier to remember the monthly moment. Here is an in depth resource from Mayo Clinic for understanding self examinations. 

If you notice new breast changes during your self-examination, discuss these with your doctor.

2. Are there any indicators of the early signs of breast cancer?

Lumps are the most common early symptoms of breast cancer. But they’re not the only way to tell if you may have cancer, other symptoms can include discharge from the nipple, retracted nipples, or dimpling of the skin.

Anything that seems unusual for you in the appearance or feeling of your breasts, without reasonable explanation, could be a cause for concern. This is when you should book a screening test with a professional.

3. Does a mammogram hurt?

A lot of women are fearful of the experience of getting a mammogram, and one of the most common mammogram questions is about whether or not it hurts.

It is by no means painful but may be slightly uncomfortable. Your doctor should explain the process to you in detail, so you know what to expect.

4. How long does a mammogram take to perform?

The mammogram itself can be over in as little as a few minutes, but times vary according to the patient and their needs.

Every patient is different and requires a different approach. This is the time to ask questions about how a mammogram works, and what it is screening for exactly.

5. Can I go for a mammogram if I have breast implants?

The answer is yes, of course, you can. The implant will remain intact and there is no need to be concerned about your implants being ‘squished’ or altered in any way.

The most relevant questions about breast cancer that you should ask at your next doctor’s appointment

Now let’s move on to the pertinent questions you should make a note to ask during your screening.

1. What is my risk of breast cancer?

Breast cancer risk is determined by a number of factors including age, ethnicity, family history, lifestyle, hormone levels, breast density, and more. Ask your doctor to assess your risk. Once you understand your risk, you can make informed choices about your health and treatment path, and also keep anxiety levels in check.

If your doctor recommends screening, ask the following:

  • How often should I be screened?
  • Which type of screening tests should I consider?
  • If a problem is found, what are the next steps from that point?

If your doctor doesn’t recommend mammograms at this point and you’re under age 40, you should consider asking the following:

2. When should I start getting mammograms?

If you’re low/average risk, you should most likely start mammogram screening around the age of 40.  If you are at higher risk, talk with your doctor about when you should start getting mammograms (or other screening tests) and how often to have them.  

3. How often should I get a mammogram?

Breast cancer screening is important for all women and regular screening mammograms are essential when health care providers have made an informed decision on personal risk. Women at higher-than-average risk may need breast cancer screening earlier and more often than women at average risk. 

4. Is there another type of screening I should be doing instead?

Mammography is the most effective screening tool used to find breast cancer. If a clinical exam or screening mammogram shows results of something suspicious, there are other tests that may be recommended as follow-ups, such as a diagnostic mammogram, breast ultrasound, or breast MRI. If you’re at higher risk of breast cancer, a mammogram and breast MRI may be recommended.

For anyone with a physical disability, pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor about tests that are right for you. As with some cases of breast implants, the tissue in your breasts while breastfeeding may appear dense on a mammogram, making it hard to read. So, it’s best to wait until after you stop breastfeeding to get a routine screening mammogram.

Timing is key, so discuss the best time to get a mammogram with your healthcare provider if you’re due for screening. 

Celbrea® thermal screening empowers women of all ages to stay on top of monitoring their breast health.

The device used aims to add to doctors’ existing standard evaluation protocols with a quick, painless examination. Celbrea® does not replace a mammogram but simply provides an additional way to screen for breast disease, including breast cancer.

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