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What Should I Expect Before, During, and After My Mammogram?

Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer and other breast-related diseases early. Mammograms are nothing to be afraid of, only two to four in a 1,000 screenings lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. However, when a mammogram does lead to a diagnosis, it often allows for treatment to begin in a timely manner. In fact, mammograms are linked to better survival rates in breast cancer patients.

If you’re a woman aged 40 or older, talk to your doctor about starting yearly mammograms. If you’re younger but have a family history of breast cancer or other concerns, you can schedule a mammogram appointment without an order from your doctor. Once you start getting mammograms, make them a regular part of your preventive healthcare routine once a year.

How to Prepare for Your Mammogram

Before your mammogram:

  • Discuss any breast concerns with your doctor.
  • Choose a facility that specializes in mammograms—like Frederick Health Crestwood or Frederick Health Rose Hill. Try to go to the same facility each year so your results can easily be compared.
  • If you’re going to a facility for the first time, bring a list of prior mammograms, biopsies, or any other breast procedures you’ve had in the past. Your provider can compare old images with the new ones.
  • Schedule your mammogram when your breasts aren't tender or swollen—the best time is one week after your period. This helps reduce discomfort and helps the technologist get better pictures.
  • Don’t use deodorant, antiperspirant, powders, lotions, creams, or perfumes under your arms, or on or under your breasts the day of your exam. Some of these contain substances that can show up as white spots on your x-ray. We can provide you with deodorant and antiperspirant after your exam.

What to Expect

  • Before the exam, you’ll need to remove all jewelry and clothing above your waist. You’ll be given a private dressing room to change into a medical gown.
  • During the mammogram, you and your technologist will be the only ones in the room.
  • You’ll stand in front of the machine, and the technologist will place your breast on the machine. A plastic upper plate will compress your breast for about 10 to 15 seconds for each x-ray. You’ll need to change positions slightly throughout the exam.
  • If you're getting a 3D mammogram (also known as digital breast tomosynthesis, or DBT), the procedure is the same, but the machine moves in a small arc, either over the top of your breast or along the side of your breast.
  • Two views of each breast are taken for a screening mammogram. For women with breast implants or larger breasts, more pictures may be needed.
  • The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes.

What to Discuss With Your Technologist

Let your technologist know if you have any concerns about your breasts—lumps, irritation or dimpling of the skin, discharge, nipple pain, and other symptoms.

During the exam, you might feel discomfort when your breasts are compressed. This step is necessary to take the most accurate images and use a lower x-ray dose. Tell the technologist if it hurts so they can adjust the compression.

Getting Your Results

After your exam, an onsite board-certified radiologist will review your x-rays to determine if you need additional mammogram images or an ultrasound. In most cases, Frederick Health can do this within two to three days and both you and your provider receive your results. A certified breast imaging navigator will guide you through your next steps, if necessary, and discuss any breast intervention that your radiologist recommends.

With just one 20-minute exam each year, you can increase your chances of early detection of breast cancer and other breast health issues. Visit our website to schedule your annual mammogram or call 240-566-3400.