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breast self-exam

1. Check your breasts each month.

You should perform a breast self-exam every month following your menstrual cycle.

After menopause perform a breast self-exam on a set day of each month, for example, the first day of each month.

2. Get regular clinical breast exams by your health care provider.

A clinical breast exam should be done by your health care provider.

3. Get a screening mammogram annually.

Advocate Health Care believes that proper breast health begins with an informed woman. National Organizations' Screening Recommendations are provided to help you make informed choices in taking care of your health.

4. Schedule your mammogram (when):

  • At the end of your menstrual cycle when breasts are least sensitive.
  • If you are a Medicare patient, schedule your mammogram 1 year and 1 day after the previous mammogram.
  • As soon as you receive a referral from your health care provider.
  • Make sure it has been a full year since your last mammogram.

5. When scheduling a mammogram, have the following information:

  • The date of your last mammogram.
  • Where your last mammogram was performed.
  • You must have a valid physician's order. (Or a prescription or HMO referral.)
  • Your insurance information.
  • Your primary health care provider's name and office address.
  • The date of your last menstrual cycle.
  • Inform the technologist if this is your baseline mammogram (first mammogram), annual screening mammogram (annual check-up mammogram), or a diagnostic mammogram (a problem or lump was noted during your screening mammogram.)
  • Inform the technologist if you have breast implants.

6. Be informed and know what to expect/be prepared for the mammogram:

  • A highly trained technologist will perform your exam.
  • The amount of radiation during the x-rays is minimal.
  • Your privacy and dignity will be respected.
  • Do not wear any powder, deodorant, lotion, or perfume in the arm and breast areas.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit/clothing. (Only the top will need to be removed.)
  • Tell the technologist about any moles or scars that are not readily seen.
  • Compression of the breast during the exam may be uncomfortable. In some women the procedure may be painful. The procedure will last only a few minutes.
  • To reduce pain, do not drink or eat items with caffeine for one week (one month) prior to your mammogram.
  • Let the technologist know if you have any special needs.

7. Find out the results of your mammogram.

In most cases results are mailed direct to the patient's home (approximately 7 days for normal results, and 5 days for abnormal results.) Always check with a specific site regarding instructions on how to receive your results.

Contact your primary care provider if you have not received your results by mail.

8. Follow your doctor's advice for any follow-up.

  • Ask your doctor why a follow-up appointment is needed.
  • Keep all appointments so that follow-up is done on a timely basis.
  • Locate previous films, if necessary.
  • Be able to provide any additional films taken and/or ultrasound results, if necessary.
  • Obtain a surgical consultation, if recommended.
  • Do NOT ignore your problems... the problems will NOT go away.

9. Call your doctor if you notice...

  • A lump or thickening in the breast.
  • Spontaneous nipple discharge.
  • Any changes in your breast tissue or skin texture (dimpling, ridges).
  • Any changes in breast size or shape/contour.
  • Change in the color of the breast or nipple.
  • Any nipple irritation or pain.

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