Can you drink coffee before a mammogram? Should you?
After checking various internet sources, I’ve come to the conclusion that you shouldn’t. Read on to find out why!
A mammogram is used to detect breast cancer, and is typically performed over the age of forty.
A mammogram is, essentially, an X-Ray of the breast. Getting tested for a mammogram regularly is the best way that doctors have to find breast cancer early, and the NHS recommends that, for women over the age of forty, they should be tested every three years.
Almost all types of coffee contain caffeine, which is the most commonly-found stimulant. If taken before a mammogram (or up to two weeks before one) it could cause breast tenderness, making the test more uncomfortable for women who are sensitive to caffeine.
Therefore, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, it could hurt more.
In addition, caffeine is a diuretic. A diuretic is anything that gives you an increased production of urine.
Therefore, drinking a cup of coffee before a mammogram could potentially reduce the amount of radiation absorbed by the body, leading to an inaccurate test result.
Why should you avoid coffee before a mammogram? And what are other risks?
Coffee is an amazing way to boost your energy levels (ask the writer who’s had about 5 mugs of the stuff at 2AM) but, as mentioned before, is also a diuretic, which can cause a perhaps dangerous rise in hydration.
As a result of this, there could be an unevenly dilated breast, therefore reacting in an incorrect diagnosis.
But don’t be scared- although some women may feel pain, most just feel a slight discomfort. Furthermore, you don’t need to worry about radiation exposure, because there’s only a tiny bit of radiation used.
And don’t feel alarmed when the person taking the mammogram steps out of the room whilst the radiation is done- yes, it’s only a slight dose, but if you were dealing with it for multiple people every day (as the doctors do) then it could have some health implications.
A mammogram is a type of X-raym, and X-rays can (very rarely) cause cancer. During the mammogram, you’re exposed to a tiny amount of radiation, about 0.4 millisieverts.
For comparison (and your peace of mind), you’re exposed to 2 mSv of radiation each year. The amount of radiation that would kill you in a month is about 6,000 mSv to 10,000msv. Therefore, at a mammogram, the risk is minimal.
Also, feel free to take some pain medicine (if you’d like). They don’t impact the mammogram, and if you’ve experienced pain before any other mammogram, it could be a good idea.
Another thing to note is the mammograms can be less effective in women who’ve had implants, because the X-rays cannot “see” through the implant to get to the breast tissue behind.
Screening saves about 1 life from breast cancer for every 200 screenings, adding up to 1,300 lives saved in the UK yearly.
Although Mammograms are not perfect, they’re the best tool for early detection- overall mammograms have about 80% effective in finding breast cancer.
Many women begin mammograms at fifty in the UK, and have them in every three years, until they turn 71.
Also, if you are pregnant, think you might be pregnant, or are currently breastfeeding, it is essential that you inform a radiographer as soon as you receive your appointment- therefore the radiographer can assess whether an alternative investigation (ie an ultrasound) might be better.
You’ll be asked to undress from the waist upwards, so don’t wear a one piece for this reason.
What happens during and after the procedure?
The mammogram should take about a quarter of an hour to complete. The mammographer will ask you a few questions about your general health and explain the procedure. If you’ve got questions, this is the best time to ask them.
Then the mammographer will ask you to remove your clothes from the waist up, and stand in front of the X-Ray machine to be positioned for the scan.
Each breast will be placed onto the machine and firmly compressed by a clear plate- this only takes a few seconds and causes no harm to the breasts, and it’s to keep the breasts still. It works in much the same way as holding an aggravated child in place for a photograph- just holding them in place to take the best results.
After the procedure, your scan will be reviewed by a radiologist, and a report will be issued to your consultant. Sometimes it’s needed to call a patient back for another mammogram to examine areas more closely- this is normal and although it may seem alarming, it’s just trying to produce the most accurate report possible.