A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammography is performed to detect abnormalities or to provide a baseline reference for later comparison.

Before the test

  • If you are pregnant or think that you may be, tell your physician.
  • No dietary changes are necessary.
  • Take your medicines as usual.

On the day of the test

  • Please do not bring valuables such as jewelry or credit cards.
  • Do not wear body powder, cream, deodorant or lotion on your torso the day of the test. These substances may interfere with the X-rays.
  • You will be asked to remove all clothing above the waist and you will be given a hospital gown to wear.
  • You will be asked to remove all jewelry.
  • The test is performed by registered mammography technologists, and the X-rays are interpreted by board-certified radiologists.

Position of breast during mammography

During the test

  • The breast is positioned on a breast support. Compression (squeezing) is applied with a plastic paddle while X-rays are taken.
  • There may be discomfort or pressure during the 3- to 5-second period of compression. However, compression is necessary to obtain the clearest possible picture with the least amount of radiation.
  • Your cooperation is essential to obtain clear mammograms. Please inform the technologist if the compression feels excessive.
  • To minimize discomfort during compression, you may want to consider scheduling your appointment 7 to 10 days after the start of your period.
  • The breast will be imaged in several positions to enable the radiologist to visualize all breast tissue adequately.
  • After examining the films, the radiologist may ask the technologist to obtain additional images or a breast ultrasound for a more precise diagnosis. This is a routine measure.

After the test

You may have temporary skin discoloration or mild aching from the compression in the breast area. You can take aspirin or ibuprofen (such as Advil) to relieve the discomfort, if you are not allergic to these medications.

Generally, you will be able to resume your usual activities immediately.

Breast examination is also important

In addition to following your doctor's recommendations on mammography testing, it is important that you have a breast examination in the doctor’s office. Please discuss breast self-examinations with your doctor.

Feel free to ask questions

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to discuss them with your radiologist, or your regular doctor.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/26/2017…#4877