This procedure uses very low doses of radiation to obtain images of the breasts, allowing doctors to detect small cancers even before they can be felt.
A radiologist will interpret your mammogram and provide your physician with a written report. A computerized second look (CAD) will be generated with every screening mammogram.
What to expect during your mammography exam
Mammograms are used for two purposes, and the procedure varies for each:
1. Screening mammogram (for women without disease symptoms)
- You will change into a gown, and each breast will be compressed for a few seconds while x-rays are taken. Compression can be uncomfortable but it should not be painful. Compression is important because it separates the overlying breast tissue and reduces the exposure from the x-rays.
- Ten percent of women will be called back after a screening mammogram for additional mammogram views or ultrasound imaging to get a better view of a particular area. These diagnostic images are taken on Tuesday morning when the Radiologist is present on site and able to give immediate results.
2. Diagnostic mammogram (for women with lumps, skin changes, nipple discharge, a history of breast cancer or other symptoms/special conditions)
- A diagnostic mammogram is essentially the same procedure as a screening mammogram but may include additional views or special techniques to magnify suspicious areas or obtain a better analysis of normal breast tissue. A diagnostic mammogram may take up to one hour, depending on how many views are needed.
Preparation for your mammography exam
Do not wear deodorant. Do not wear powder on your breasts. Many of theses products contain metals that can show up as calcifications in your breast.
Wear comfortable clothing; a two-piece outfit is usually the best, as you will be asked to undress from the waist up.
If possible you should not schedule your mammogram just before or during your menstrual period, especially if you have breast pain at that time.
Try to relax, relaxing your muscles makes the exam easier for you and the Technologist will get better pictures.