Mammography

A relaxed, comfortable mammogram experience

Digital mammography is a noninvasive imaging method to see inside your breasts and check for problems. It shows even very small tumors that you can’t feel with your fingers. Because digital mammography uses low-dose X-rays, it is a safe screening tool to diagnose cancer early, when it is most treatable.

Overview

Digital mammography is a noninvasive imaging method to see inside your breasts and check for problems. It shows even very small tumors that you can’t feel with your fingers. Because digital mammography uses low-dose X-rays, it is a safe screening tool to diagnose cancer early, when it is most treatable.

Your Screening Mammogram

During your screening, a mammography technologist meets you and walks you back to change into a gown and prepare for your exam. You face the equipment while the technologist gets you in the right position, helping to place your breast on the plates of the machine. You hold your breath for a few seconds while the machine compresses (flattens) your breast. The technologist helps you change positions a few times to get different images of each breast. 

Some women have discomfort during breast compression, but it should only last a few seconds. Tell the technologist if the discomfort is too much. Compressing your breasts is necessary to get accurate images, but your comfort is important. 

If you have breast tenderness before or during your menstrual period, you might schedule your screening mammogram for the week after your period. 

Diagnostic Mammogram

You also may have a mammogram because you have a symptom, such as a lump. This is called a diagnostic mammogram. You also may have a diagnostic mammogram for another look if your screening mammogram looked different from the last one you had. The radiologist may want to get more images or views to compare the current and previous mammograms and decide if any other steps are needed.

What To Expect

Your Screening Mammogram

During your screening, a mammography technologist meets you and walks you back to change into a gown and prepare for your exam. You face the equipment while the technologist gets you in the right position, helping to place your breast on the plates of the machine. You hold your breath for a few seconds while the machine compresses (flattens) your breast. The technologist helps you change positions a few times to get different images of each breast. 

Some women have discomfort during breast compression, but it should only last a few seconds. Tell the technologist if the discomfort is too much. Compressing your breasts is necessary to get accurate images, but your comfort is important. 

If you have breast tenderness before or during your menstrual period, you might schedule your screening mammogram for the week after your period. 

Diagnostic Mammogram

You also may have a mammogram because you have a symptom, such as a lump. This is called a diagnostic mammogram. You also may have a diagnostic mammogram for another look if your screening mammogram looked different from the last one you had. The radiologist may want to get more images or views to compare the current and previous mammograms and decide if any other steps are needed.

Preparing for Mammography

Don’t wear deodorant, powder or lotions under your arms or on your breasts before a mammogram. If you do, you can remove it with a wipe we provide in the changing room. These substances can show up on a mammogram and confuse the results.

Preparing For...

Preparing for Mammography

Don’t wear deodorant, powder or lotions under your arms or on your breasts before a mammogram. If you do, you can remove it with a wipe we provide in the changing room. These substances can show up on a mammogram and confuse the results.

After Your Test

Your mammogram technologist may ask you to wait for a minute or two after the exam to make sure the images are clear. You receive results within 72 hours after a screening mammogram. If you had a mammogram to diagnose a problem, you receive results the same day. 

Next Steps

If your mammogram shows something suspicious, you may need another type of imaging or a breast biopsy. A breast health nurse navigator works closely with you to explain the tests and what is happening every step of the way.

After Your Procedure

After Your Test

Your mammogram technologist may ask you to wait for a minute or two after the exam to make sure the images are clear. You receive results within 72 hours after a screening mammogram. If you had a mammogram to diagnose a problem, you receive results the same day. 

Next Steps

If your mammogram shows something suspicious, you may need another type of imaging or a breast biopsy. A breast health nurse navigator works closely with you to explain the tests and what is happening every step of the way.

Be sure to write down in advance the questions you want to ask your provider so you don’t forget them at your appointment.

  • Can I take ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain reliever before my mammogram to reduce discomfort?
  • I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, but I worry about it. Can I start screening at an earlier age?
  • How will you inform me of the results – by letter, electronically or by phone? What if the result is not good? 
  • What if I have breast implants? Does that affect my mammograms?
  • I don’t have health insurance but need a mammogram. Are there programs that provide screening?
  • I’m a man with a family history of breast cancer. Should I have mammograms? How do you screen men?

Questions To Ask Your Provider

Be sure to write down in advance the questions you want to ask your provider so you don’t forget them at your appointment.

  • Can I take ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain reliever before my mammogram to reduce discomfort?
  • I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, but I worry about it. Can I start screening at an earlier age?
  • How will you inform me of the results – by letter, electronically or by phone? What if the result is not good? 
  • What if I have breast implants? Does that affect my mammograms?
  • I don’t have health insurance but need a mammogram. Are there programs that provide screening?
  • I’m a man with a family history of breast cancer. Should I have mammograms? How do you screen men?

RadiologyInfo.org

The American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America features broad information about mammography and how it benefits you and your physician.

Resources

RadiologyInfo.org

The American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America features broad information about mammography and how it benefits you and your physician.

Patient Stories for Mammography