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Mammograms Can Be More Stressful Than Cancer

Stresses Over Mammography Plague Breast Cancer Survivors
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Taking the Stress Out of Mammograms

The study also found that support from doctors, friends, and family plays an important role in mediating the stress women feel about mammograms.

Strong support from their doctor reduced stress among women who never had cancer, but increased stress levels among women with a history of breast cancer. Researchers say that association doesn't necessarily mean that the doctors caused their patients' symptoms, but the patients' distress may have stimulated the doctors' concern.

Mason says that finding underscores the point that open communication between the doctor and patient is critical to easing women's fears about breast cancer screening.

Cheryl Perkins, MD, senior clinical advisor at the Komen Foundation says asking questions at the time a mammogram is scheduled can help allay women's fears up front. Those questions should include:

  • What can you expect during the procedure itself?
  • What is the follow-up plan?
  • How much time is required to receive your results?
  • How accurate are those results likely to be? What is the risk of a false-positive result?
  • What would be done depending on those results?

For family and friends of women who are fearful about a mammogram, Parker says it's important to listen and remind them of the positive side of breast cancer screening.

"Try to validate her feelings and tell her that most women feel the way she does," Parker tells WebMD. "It's just something to get through, and she'll have that peace of mind on the other side of it."

For fact sheets and other information on what to expect from a mammogram and other breast cancer issues, contact the toll-free helpline at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation at (800) I'M AWARE or the Y-ME hotline at (800) 221-2141.

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