- A mammogram is a diagnostic procedure that takes an X-ray of your breast tissue to look for signs of cancer.
- Feeling vulnerable or anxious after a mammogram is completely normal.
- Communicate with your personal network and doctor if you feel any nervousness, and remember to ask for emotional support.
After your mammogram you wait to hear the results from your doctor.
Getting a negative test result, meaning your test was normal, allows life to continue as it did before. Getting a positive test result means further testing and more waiting.
The odds of getting breast cancer are considered low. The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that 12 percent of women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
The ACS also reports that breast cancer survivors in the United States numbered more than 2.8 million. This statistic includes those under treatment and those who had completed treatment.
How to Cope with the Wait
Some women may ask a friend or family member to be on standby. Some women may also try to maintain their normal routines to help lessen feelings of nervousness and anxiety over the unknown.
Also, remember that a mammogram, like a pap smear, is a routine part of health maintenance.
What Comes After a Positive Result?
In the case of an abnormal or positive result, the most common next step is a breast biopsy.
There are currently three types of biopsies performed in the United States. Two involve needle insertions, and the other is a surgical procedure.
Both needle biopsies involve the use of a local anesthetic. They leave only a pinpoint insertion site that a bandage will easily cover. The surgical biopsy often involves a general anesthesia and a small incision that’s closed with stitches.
Recovery time for a needle biopsy is immediate, while a surgical biopsy could take a few hours. A doctor can perform a needle biopsy in their office, while a surgical biopsy takes place in a hospital or an outpatient clinic.
Needle biopsies require significantly less procedure time, with most lasting approximately 30 minutes to an hour. Surgical biopsy could take up to two hours.
Preparing for your Biopsy Appointment
When the time comes for your biopsy appointment it may help to reach out to your network of family and friends for emotional support. You may also find women who can share similar experiences.
However, don’t be discouraged if coping mechanisms that work for others don’t work for you. Experiment with finding the methods of support that help you the most.
Talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding the biopsy. Write questions down in advance of your appointment or phone conversation with your doctor.
On the day of your scheduled biopsy, you may want to bring a friend or family member with you for emotional support. Your network of healthcare professionals can also walk you through the process and advise you on your next steps.