The word “mammography” might make some people feel intimidated or even anxious, but the best way to detect breast cancer is undergoing an annual mammogram. We know screening saves lives!

You can help to reduce anxiety about the procedure and get more accurate results by preparing correctly. Consider these important tips to prepare for your next mammogram appointment.

Don’t use deodorant that day. Avoid using deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams, or perfumes under your arms or on your breasts. Particles in these products might show up on your mammogram and cause undue alarm or confusion.

Schedule the test to occur one week after your period. If you are pre-menopause, your breasts are most likely to be sensitive or tender the week before and the week during your period.

Take pain medication if you find that having a mammogram is uncomfortable. Taking an over-the-counter acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, about an hour before your mammogram might ease the discomfort of the test. Check with your doctor before taking any new medications.

Wear a two-piece outfit. That way you’ll only have to remove your top and bra. You will be given a robe to wear, but you’ll feel less exposed being able to keep your bottoms on.

Leave any neck jewelry at home. Anything around the neck will interfere with obtaining clear x-ray images of your breasts. If you have any nipple jewelry or piercings – ask in advance if they should be removed.

Ensure prior mammogram images are reviewed. If you’re going to a new facility for your mammogram, bring previous mammograms from other facilities if you have them in your possession or request to have prior mammogram images or biopsy results forwarded to new facility. The radiologist will compare the current exam to all the prior studies. Sometimes the most important finding on your mammogram is a subtle change over time which cannot be detected without the benefit of the comparison.

Reduce your intake of caffeinated beverages and chocolate 3-4 days before your appointment. Caffeine may make your breasts feel more tender.

Tell the technologist about any physical limitations. Mammogram pictures are typically done in the standing position. If you are unable to stand, the machine can be adjusted for a seated position. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns about pain that may occur when your breasts are compressed during a mammogram. Just ask the technologist to proceed slowly and let them know the instant you begin to feel any discomfort.

Describe any breast problems or symptoms to the technologist performing the exam. Let the technologist know about scars you have from breast biopsies since it may look abnormal on the scan and should be marked so the radiologist knows. Moles or extra nipples that you have on your breasts should also be marked so they won’t be mistaken as abnormalities when they are on the skin surface, not inside of the breast.

Wear flat shoes, sneakers, or low heels. You will be standing for your mammogram and may be asked to lean forward or backward for best positioning. High heels may throw you off balance.