Mammogram prepping pointers:
If you've yet to get your first mammogram, please don't let this post scare you off. Just follow the recommendations for a better experience.
If you're not new to mammograms but think you're a unique case because you've been known to come close to passing out -- or have actually passed out -- think again. And read on.
I've had many mammograms, sometimes annually, and sometimes twice per year due to risk factors and anomalies. I've come close to fainting three times, and am no stranger to experiencing lightheadedness. Since the near-fainting incidents surprised the techs each time, I assumed such a reaction was rare. However, a quick search online proves differently. So I decided to do some "research" into what might be the cause.
Apparently, most fainting results from stimulating something called the vagus nerve. Now, I'm about as far from a medical expert as there is, but from the diagrams I'm seeing about how that nerve is positioned in the body, it seems to me that the far-from-normal positioning of your neck in the contraption that does your mammogram could somehow stimulate that nerve -- maybe not enough in and of itself, but enough so that other triggers could finish the job until your vision starts fading to black.
After making that discovery, I developed a list of four likely triggers and recommendations for avoiding them. Then, to make them easier to remember, I pared each down to a single word. Finally, to make the combined list easier to remember, I came up with an acronym.
Hmm.... Not a very good acronym. It didn't help to rearrange the letters, either. D-Bra could be catchy, but there are a whole lot more women smaller and bigger than that. "D-Bra" also brought back memories of being teased by my sisters way back when I wanted a training bra but was a long way from needing one. In their defense, it was just a matter of pronouncing my name a little differently: converting the "e" from short to long and emphasizing the first syllable rather than the second.
Then it struck me. My name....
Well, what do you know? I was only one letter shy of shortening my list to an acronym of my own name. That's when I realized I was missing a critical fifth recommendation -- one that started with the missing letter "e."
It's almost like it was meant to be!
Now, allow me to present to you: DEBRA--5 important things for you to do when preparing for your first or next mammogram.
1. D is for DRINK!!! Drink a bottle of water before going for your appointment to make sure you're well hydrated. It's also a good idea to bring a fresh bottle of water in with you. Why? If you don't have enough water in your bloodstream, this can lower you blood pressure. Combine this with those odd neck positions, and lightheadedness or fainting could result.
2. E is for EAT!!! Low blood sugar is already a trigger for lightheadedness. Added to the physical and emotional stress of mammography, lack of proper nutrients in your blood stream could certainly increase the likelihood of a fainting spell. Have a meal or a snack before your appointment. Don't arrive hungry.
3. B is for BREATHE!!! Take a few deep breaths before approaching the machine. Keep focusing on breathing while they position you, and don't stop until they tell you to hold your breath. I often stop breathing as soon as they start squishing. That is the worst thing you can do, because by the time they tell you to hold your breath, your lungs are already starving! Your bloodstream needs oxygen from your lungs as much as it needs food and water. It's not easy to breathe while contorted and squished, but you're far better to take short little snippets of air than none at all.
4. R is for RELAX!!!! Do whatever it takes to de-stress before your appointment. Chamomile tea. Meditative music. Chocolate. Whatever. Heck, if you can go so far as to have a spa experience before your appointment, then go for it! We all deserve to pamper ourselves once in a while. I know you might be worried or even terrified about whatever results the test might yield, but odds are truly in favor of those results being good -- either through a clear screening or early detection. Try to be optimistic and focus on the power of positive thinking. If you're not relaxed, you won't be breathing sufficiently (remember "B") and your muscles will tense up, which can make the whole process far more painful than it should be.
5. A is for ACETAMINOPHEN!!! Take Tylenol or generic acetaminophen along with some of that water before your appointment. Getting squished can be anything from unpleasant to painful, especially if you tend to be fibrocystic or have painful or tender breasts for any reason. As the old saying goes: a dose of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking something before pain hits can prevent it hitting at all, or at least reduce the effects if it does.
This is my plan for next year's appointment. As long as I follow these recommendations, I'm confident it will go smoothly. And all I have to do is remember my own name! 😉