Doctor's office
Illustration: Istvan Banyai
We know to schedule a Pap Smear after the first week of our menstrual cycle, and it's downright obvious to fast before a fasting glucose test, but how to get ready for other medical tests isn't always so obvious. Here's the drill for three exams you're likely to encounter.

Test: Mammogram

Schedule: Up to 14 days after what you anticipate will be the first day of your period.

Why: Breasts will be at their least tender, which will allow for better compression and a clearer reading.

Prep: Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder, or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam because they can appear as calcium spots. If you're worried about pain or discomfort, take two ibuprofen an hour or two before the test.

Test: Fecal Occultblood Test

Schedule:  Either before or at the end of your menstrual period.

Why: To avoid any possibility of a false positive.

Prep: For three days prior to the test, avoid red meat, as well as turnips, radishes, horseradish, artichokes, mushrooms, broccoli, bean sprouts, cauliflower, apples, beets, bananas, grapes, and melons (they contain a substance that can mimic blood molecules, which can trigger a positive result), and citrus, vitamin C, and iron pills (which can cause a false reading).

Test: CT Scan/Angiogram

Schedule: First thing in the morning, if possible.

Why: If you need an IV dye to help provide contrast for the scan, you may have to fast for two to six hours prior.

Prep: Drink extra fluids before you start the fast: The dye can cause damage to the kidneys in a small number of patients. People with poor kidneys, diabetics, and the elderly are at the greatest risk for it—they should also talk to their doctor about taking the drug n-acetylcysteine the day before. Fluids before and after the scan plus the drug seem to offer the best protection.

SOURCE: American College of Radiology; Annals of Internal Medicine, February 19, 2008
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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