What to Expect During a Mammogram

If you are about to have your first mammogram, you might be nervous, not knowing what to expect from the procedure. Even if you have had one before, you might feel some stress and anxiety whenever you are due for your next mammogram. Don’t worry. You’ve got this! Knowing how to prepare for a mammogram may help you to reduce that stress, so we’re letting you in on some tips for your next breast cancer screening.


What is a Mammogram?


You probably have a general idea of what a mammogram is, but you might want some more information before your first. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray that produces images of the breasts. These images are then analyzed by a radiologist to determine if further testing is needed for a diagnosis.

During the procedure, a technologist will place your breast onto a plate on the machine. Another plate is then lowered, applying pressure to the breast to flatten the tissue, achieving the best X-ray image possible. This compression of the breast should only last about 10 seconds.

The whole procedure lasts between 20-30 minutes. The technologist usually takes two images of each breast, though if you have larger breasts, they may take more.


How to Prepare for a Mammogram


First, breathe. It is OK to be nervous, but know that most mammogram results come back normal.

When you go to schedule your first mammogram, avoid scheduling it the week before or during your period. Your breasts tend to be more sensitive during this time, which might cause you to have increased discomfort during the screening. If you are post-menopause, you do not need to worry about this.

Next, if you haven’t performed a self breast exam recently, you might want to do so before your appointment. This way you can discuss any recent changes you have experienced with your medical professional during the exam.

On the day of your mammogram, do not wear any deodorant, antiperspirant or lotion, as some of the ingredients in these products might affect the imaging. Also avoid wearing jewelry from the waist to the neck.

To make yourself more comfortable during the mammogram, you might want to stick to either pants or a skirt with an easily removable top and bra. Wearing a dress means that you will have to disrobe completely for the exam.

Taking ibuprofen beforehand may help ease the discomfort and soreness afterward.


During the Mammogram


Feel free to ask the medical provider and technologist questions about the procedure before and during the mammogram. This might help ease your fears and allow you to relax a bit.

Before you begin, tell the technologist if you are breast-feeding.

During the imaging, stand completely still and hold your breath during the compression. If you feel more than discomfort, including severe pain, let the technologist know.

The technologist might ask you to wait while the images are being processed. Don’t worry, they are just checking to make sure that the images are clear enough to be reviewed by the radiologist. If they ask to take more images, again, do not worry; it simply means that they want clearer pictures than the ones they have already taken.


After the Mammogram


Your medical provider should call you in the next week to notify you of the results. If you have not heard from your provider within 10 days, contact the provider’s office.

After a mammogram, the imaging center must send you an easy-to-understand report within 30 days of your appointment.

If you have more questions about your mammogram results, feel free to schedule a follow-up exam with your medical provider.


Need a Free Mammogram?


If you are experiencing high co-pays, high deductibles or do not have health insurance, you might qualify for The HealthyWoman Program. The HealthyWoman Program provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic testing for women in Pennsylvania. See if you qualify for a free mammogram!