What happens before a mammogram?

  • Follow your normal routine – it is acceptable to eat, drink and take your normal medications.
  • If you are breastfeeding, pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your healthcare provider, as your mammogram may need to be postponed or rescheduled for a later time.

What happens on the day of the mammogram?

  • Please do not bring valuables, (jewelry, credit cards) to your mammogram.
  • Do not wear body powder, lotion/cream, or deodorant the day of your mammogram, as these substances can look abnormal on a mammogram.
  • When you arrive, you will be asked to complete a breast history sheet.
  • You will also be asked to remove all clothing and jewelry above the waist, and will be given a hospital gown to wear.
  • The mammogram is performed by a registered mammography technologist, and the mammogram is interpreted (read) by a board-certified radiologist (a physician who specializes in reading X-rays).

position of breast during mammogram

Position of breast during mammography

What happens during the mammogram?

  • The technologist will ask you to remove one breast at a time from your gown (see above), and the breast is positioned on a breast support plate. A plastic paddle will compress (squeeze) the breast against the support plate. The mammogram picture is then taken while the breast is compressed. Compression is necessary because it keeps the breast from moving (which can cause the pictures to appear blurry.) It also spreads out the breast tissue, allowing the radiologist to see through the tissue better. Finally, the least amount of radiation is used when the breast is compressed as thinly as possible.
  • You may feel some discomfort or pressure during the 3- to 5-second period of compression. However, the mammogram should not be painful. If you are unable to tolerate the pressure, please let the technologist know and she/he will adjust accordingly. Compression is also more uncomfortable during some points of a woman’s menstrual cycle. To minimize discomfort, consider scheduling your appointment seven to 10 days after the start of your period.

What happens after the mammogram?

  • You may have temporary skin discoloration and/or mild aching in the breast from the compression. You can take aspirin or ibuprofen (such as Advil®) to relieve the discomfort, if you are not allergic to these medications. Most women will be able to resume their normal activities immediately after their mammograms.
  • Your results will be available within a few days of the test. After you receive the results, your healthcare provider will discuss everything with you and explain the radiologist’s recommendations.

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