A woman receives a mammogram

Preparing for a Mammogram

Mammograms are X-ray images of a woman’s breast that are used to screen for breast cancer. Because of this diagnostic tool, the number of deaths from breast cancer has been significantly decreased, since it has played a key role in early detection.

How to Prepare

There are several things you can do to prepare for your first mammogram procedure. These include:

Choose a good facility: Make sure to choose a mammogram facility that is officially certified by the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that the facility will meet all of the standards and guidelines.

Bring prior mammogram images: If you are changing facilities, make sure you bring any previous mammogram results with you from your old facility to the new one. This is so the radiologist can compare your old results with the new images to look for any changes.

Don’t use deodorant: You should avoid using any deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams, and perfumes under your arms or around your breasts since they contain metallic particles that could be visible on the mammogram and confuse your results.

Schedule at the right time: It will be the most comfortable for you if you try to schedule your mammogram during a time when your breasts are the least likely to be tender. For women who have not yet gone through menopause, this will usually be during the week after your menstrual period, since your breasts are the most likely to be tender during the week before and the week during your period.

Take an over-the-counter pain medication: Some women find that mammograms are very uncomfortable. For this reason, it might be helpful to take an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen about an hour before the exam to ease the discomfort as much as possible.

What to Expect

When you arrive at the mammogram testing facility, you will likely be asked to remove all of your jewelry and clothing from the waist up and then will be given a gown to put on. During the procedure, you will stand in front of an X-ray machine that is specifically designed for mammography. The X-ray technician will place one of your breasts on a platform that will raise or lower to match your height. You will have to position your head, arms, and torso to allow the best unobstructed view of your breast. Then, your breast will gradually be pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate in order to spread out the breast tissue and allow the X-rays to penetrate through the breast tissue. You will be asked to stand still and hold your breath during this time. The pressure being applied should not hurt you, but it may be uncomfortable. The procedure will then be repeated for the other breast. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. You can usually expect to receive your results within 30 days or sooner. 

Last Updated: December 01, 2016