If you’ve never had a mammogram, you may be a little nervous. But there is no need to be afraid, a mammogram is a non-invasive procedure. Knowing what to expect during your exam will help you to be prepared and feel at ease.
What Is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast tissue that is used to detect and combat tumors, breast cancer, and other abnormalities as early and effectively as possible.
The test is performed by compressing the breast tissue to capture X-ray images that are used for diagnostic or screening purposes.
Your doctor will determine the frequency of mammograms needed based on your age, medical history, and individual risk factors.
Before Your Exam
It is best to wear a two-piece outfit instead of a dress or romper to the exam. You may be asked to change into a gown, but you will only be required to remove the top half of your outfit.
Avoid scheduling a mammogram at any point that you might expect your breasts to be especially tender or swollen, such as the week before your period. The week after your period is likely to be the best time. Use what you know about your own body to schedule a date that is best for you.
You may choose to take an over-the-counter pain medication such as Advil, Aspirin, or Tylenol before your exam. If you are unsure of whether or not to take this kind of medication or you’re unsure of what option might be best, please consult with your doctor before the exam date.
Antiperspirant or deodorant can show up in x-rays as white spots, so you may be advised not to use it before your appointment. For this reason, you may prefer to schedule the appointment earlier in the day.
If you have had mammograms previously, but not at this specific facility, please provide a list of dates and locations of previous mammograms, breast treatments, and other related procedures. Try to secure and provide the record from the last facility so that those images can be used to establish a baseline. If you need assistance in this, please call our office before your exam so we can help ensure all necessary medical records are received.
You should discuss any changes or problems with your breasts with your physician prior to the appointment, as well as with the technologist at the appointment. Also, please inform the technologist if you are pregnant, might be pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
What to Expect During the Exam
You will enter a private exam room with a female staff member. You will then be asked to remove your top and stand in front of the mammography machine. This is done with a screen or curtain in place for privacy.
Each breast is taken, one-at-a-time, and placed on the tray of a machine. The machine then compresses the breast for 20-30 seconds between the two plates. You will be asked to hold still and possibly hold your breath for these few seconds of compression.
You may experience discomfort, and possibly a little pain, during each compression. If the discomfort becomes painful, inform the technologist.
The appointment should take approximately thirty minutes in total.
What to Expect After the Mammogram
You may return to regular activities right away. Your doctor will notify you of the results within a few days.
Be aware that abnormal results are not necessarily a cause for alarm. Most abnormalities are benign, but you may be asked to return for a second look after a specified time to confirm the baseline images.
Even if your results are normal, your doctor may decide based on your individual needs to order regularly scheduled mammography exams. Talk to your doctor about your future mammogram requirements.