Like most of the women you know, you work hard for everything you have in life. To be certain you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come, you must stay healthy. As you likely know, a breast cancer diagnosis can stop you in your tracks. A routine mammogram may be your best strategy for detecting breast cancer early.

According to the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging, mammography has contributed to a nearly 40 percent decline in breast cancer fatalities since 1990. While you cannot completely eliminate the chances of a missed diagnosis, committing to regular mammogram screenings is a good idea. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your mammogram.

  1. Discuss your medical history

If you have a family history of breast cancer or certain other factors, you may be at increased risk of developing breast cancer. While a mammogram gives your physician important information, it may not paint a complete picture. Therefore, discuss your medical history with your doctor. Also, inform your physician if you take hormones, have had surgery or otherwise may have a greater propensity for developing breast cancer.

  1. Establish a screening schedule

Major health organizations disagree on how often women should have breast cancer screenings. While some recommend mammography after age 40, others suggest waiting longer. To determine how often you should have a mammogram, talk to your doctor. If you have a family history or certain risk factors, your physician may recommend you begin your screening schedule sooner rather than later.

  1. Prepare for the exam

Mammograms are usually neither stressful nor painful. Still, you should know what to expect. Usually, you must undress above your waist. You must also allow a technician to flatten your breast. In most cases, mammograms last just a few minutes.

  1. Follow up with your physician

After your mammogram, your physician should contact you about the results. Unfortunately, though, because medical practices are busy places, your results may fall through the cracks. If you do not hear from your doctor within a few days, call to inquire. Do not assume everything is fine simply because you do not hear from your physician.

Regular mammograms save lives. Rather than hoping for the best, discuss your breast cancer risk with your doctor. Then, stick to a routine mammography schedule to increase your chances of staying healthy for years to come.