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Breast Cancer Screening: What To Expect When Having A Mammogram

Date: 10/20/17

This month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s the perfect time to get an annual breast cancer screening, or mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of your breasts. Having a mammogram each year can help your doctors find breast cancer early, when it is small and easiest to treat.

What should you expect?

You will undress above the waist, and a technologist will position you for the exam. Your breast will be placed on the machine’s plate, and an upper plate will be lowered onto your breast. This will compress, or flatten, your breast so that a picture can be taken. You may feel some discomfort, but this will take only a few seconds. The process will then be repeated on your other breast. At least two views of each breast will be taken. The exam takes about 20 minutes.

How Can You Prepare for a Mammogram?

These tips will help you prepare for a mammogram:

  • Don’t schedule your mammogram for the week just before your period. This helps to reduce discomfort caused by swollen breasts.
  • Don’t wear deodorant, powder, or perfume on the day of the exam. These can cause white spots to show up on your X-ray.
  • If you’ve had a mammogram in the past, take your results with you. This will allow your doctor to compare your results.
  • If you have any medical history that may increase your risk for breast cancer, tell your technologist and your doctor. This may include a history of breast cancer in your family or hormone use.
  • If you are breastfeeding, if you think you may be pregnant, or if you have breast implants, tell the technologist before the test.

What happens after the mammogram?

After the exam, ask when you will receive the results. Ask for a copy of the results to share with your doctor. Your doctor will help you to understand the results.

Where to find more information:

For information about breast cancer and screenings, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation or the American Cancer Society