Getting a mammogram for the first time? Here are 19 things to look forward to

A mammogram is an important step in taking care of yourself and your breasts.

If it’s your first time getting one, knowing what to expect can help the process go more smoothly.

According to Cedars-Sinai, a mammogram is a low-dose imaging system used to examine breast tissue. It can help doctors detect abnormalities, such as tumors, that are too small to be felt.

Check out 19 things to look forward to below:

2. Try to go to the same facility each time so your mammograms can be easily compared from year to year.

3. If you are visiting the facility for the first time, bring a list of the locations and dates of previous mammograms, biopsies, or other breast procedures.

4. Schedule a mammogram when the breast is not tender or swollen to minimize discomfort and get good images. Try to avoid the week before your period.

5. Do not wear deodorant or antiperspirant on the day of the exam. Some of them contain substances that can appear as white spots on X-rays.

6. You may find it easier to wear a skirt or pants, so you only need to remove your top and bra for the mammogram.

7. Before having a mammogram, discuss any recent changes or problems with your breasts with your healthcare provider.

8. Always describe any breast changes or problems you have to the mammogram technician. Also describe any medical history that may affect your breast cancer risk—such as surgery, hormone use, breast cancer in your family, or if you’ve had breast cancer before.

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9. Before having any type of imaging test, tell the technologist if you are breastfeeding or think you may be pregnant.

10. You will have to undress above the waist for a mammogram. The facility will give you a lane.

11. The technologist will place your breast for a mammogram. During a mammogram, it’s just you and the technologist in the room.

12. To obtain a high-quality image, the breast should be flattened. The technologist places your breast on the machine plate. A plastic top plate is pulled down to compress your breast for a few seconds while the technologist takes the picture. You will need to change position before taking the next picture.

13. The whole procedure takes about 20 minutes. Real breast contractions only last a few seconds each time.

14. You may feel some discomfort during breast compression and for some women it may be painful. Tell the technologist if it hurts.

15. On a screening mammogram, two views of each breast are taken. But some women, such as those with breast implants or large breasts, may need more images.

16. A diagnostic mammogram is often done if a woman has symptoms of breast cancer or if a change is seen on a screening mammogram.

17. More images are taken during a diagnostic mammogram focusing on an area that looked different on a screening mammogram.

18. During a diagnostic mammogram, the images are reviewed by the radiologist while you are there so that more images can be taken if needed to look more closely at anything.

19. In some cases, special images known as point views or magnified views are used to visualize a small area.

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The American Cancer Society urges patients not to be afraid of mammography! Remember that only 2-4 out of 1000 mammograms lead to a diagnosis of breast cancer.

A note about the COVID-19 pandemic:

If you have warning signs of breast cancer, it’s important to see your doctor, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health officials are urging patients not to delay seeing their doctor if they notice a change in their breasts or armpits.

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