Imaging screening plays an important role in the early detection of serious diseases, including cancer. But even if you yourself are following your doctor’s recommended guidelines, getting family members to do the same isn’t always easy. Whether they simply aren’t aware of the imaging services they should be receiving, or they have anxieties around the process, here’s how you can help your loved one get the medical imaging they need.
Some imaging services are used to detect signs of a problem early, even before symptoms present themselves. This is the case when it comes to mammograms, for instance.
The FDA notes that mammograms are the best way to detect cancer at an early stage, when there are more treatment options available and greater odds for survival. Indeed, most women have heard they should be going for mammograms, but they may be unclear on the timeline, frequency, and value of these potentially life-saving imaging services.
If you have a friend, sister, mother, or other important woman in your life, discussing mammograms could be the make-or-break factor that prompts them to schedule an appointment. Research shows that women whose family member or friend recommended a mammogram were more likely to go for one.
For starters, you can simply help them get clarity. While their doctor will of course make the final call, approaching the conversation could encourage them to find out when and how often they should be screened based on their individual risk. Share the fact that women who are at an average risk—with no personal or family history of or genetic predisposition to breast cancer—are advised to begin receiving annual mammograms by the age of 40, according to the American Cancer Society.
Breast MRIs can also be used with mammography to increase detection in women with a higher risk, including those who have:
- An inherited gene mutation that increases breast cancer risk
- A first-degree relative with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
- Received radiation treatment to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30
- A risk of invasive breast cancer of more than 20%, based on the National Cancer Institute’s assessment tool
It’s also possible imaging services may have been recommended for your loved one based on an elevated risk for a different type of cancer or symptoms that need to be investigated. Similarly following this advice, doing research together on the procedure and helping them stay informed can encourage empowered healthcare decisions.
Lack of understanding isn’t the only factor that holds people back from imaging services. In some cases, your loved one may know they need an imaging test, but other doubts prevent them from actually going through with it.
Oftentimes, not knowing what to expect from the appointment itself can be the greatest driver of fear. If this is the case for your loved one, ease their minds by walking them through the process.
During a mammogram, for instance, the breast tissue is compressed between two plates, causing some pressure. While some women report that the procedure is uncomfortable, this discomfort is brief. Pain can also be minimized by scheduling the appointment for the time just before or during menstruation, when the breast tissue is most tender.
In the case of an MRI, the patient is asked to remove jewelry and change into scrubs. To ensure a comfortable experience, technologists can provide pillows, headphones, a warm blanket, and music. Depending on the type of imaging needed, some patients may even qualify for an open MRI, which allows for the head or feet to be out of the machine.
If your loved one knows what to expect for their imaging service, they may be more confident and likely to go through with their appointment. You might also be able to ease any additional woes by offering to accompany them and stay in the waiting room.