A mammogram creates an image of your breasts on X-ray. It is used both to screen and diagnose breast cancer while evaluating a lump in the breast. Screening mammography is done to detect changes in breast in females, to detect breast cancer before any clinical signs and symptoms become evident. Diagnostic mammography is done to investigate suspicious changes in breast including a newly developed lump, pain in breast, and an unusual appearance of skin, nipple discharge or nipple thickening. Mammogram has a key role to play in the early detection of breast cancer and it helps reduce the number of deaths that happen due to breast cancer.

Things to Know about Preparing for a Mammogram

Let us discuss how to prepare for your mammogram:
  • Choose a mammogram facility that is certified by the FDA: It is very important to check whether the facility where you are considering having your mammogram is certified by the FDA or Food and Drug Administration. The purpose of this certification is to make sure that certain standards are met by the facility.

  • Schedule the mammogram for that time when you are least likely to develop tenderness in your breasts: In females who haven’t yet gone through menopause, then that time is likely to be during the week after their menses. The likelihood of the breasts becoming tender is increased one week before menses the week during menses.

  • Bring your old mammogram images with you: If you are visiting a new facility to get a mammogram, request your old facility to put the images of your old mammograms on a CD. Make sure to bring that CD with you during your appointment as it will help the radiologist compare your past mammogram images with the new images and check for development of any changes in your breasts.

  • It is recommended to not use deodorant before you go for your mammogram: Avoid the use of antiperspirants, deodorants, lotions, powders, perfumes or creams on your armpits or breasts. The metallic particles present in the deodorant and powders can become visible on your mammogram and can create confusion.

  • If you feel that getting a mammogram is causing discomfort, you can consider taking an OTC painkiller: Take an over-the-counter pain killer such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), aspirin, or ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil, others) around an hour before you undergo the procedure may help ease the discomfort caused by the test.

What You Should Expect During the Procedure

After discussing preparing for a mammogram, let’s discuss what you should expect during the procedure.

During the mammogram

At the facility, you will be asked to remove your clothing and neck jewelry and will be given a gown to wear. It is advisable to wear a two-piece dress on the day of the test to make the process easier.

For the procedure, you are asked to stand in front of an X-ray machine that is especially designed to perform mammography. The technician puts one of your breasts on a firm platform and lowers or raises the platform to adjust it according to your height. You will be helped by the technician to position your arms, head and torso so that the view of your breasts is unobstructed.

Your breast is pressed gradually against the firm platform using a clear plate made of plastic and pressure is put for a couple of seconds so that the breast tissue can spread. Though the pressure causes no harm, still you may feel uncomfortable or even have pain. Tell the technician, if you experience too much discomfort.

Your breast is compressed to even out the thickness of the breast tissue and let the X-rays penetrate the tissue. The breasts are also held still by the pressure so that blurring from movement is reduced. In this way the dose of radiation needed is also minimized. During the time you are exposed to X-ray, you will be required to hold your breath and stand still.

After the mammogram

After images of both your breasts are made, you will be asked to wait till the time the technician is checking the image quality. If for some technical reasons the views are inadequate, some part of the test may have to be repeated. Less than 30 minutes are usually required to complete the entire procedure. Afterward you can dress and do your normal activity.

In the USA, according to federal laws, mammogram facilities should send your results of mammography within 30 days, but they may usually send it sooner. Ask the technician when you can expect the results.

How to Read the Results

After discussing preparing for a mammogram and what to expect during the procedure, let’s discuss the results.

Mammograms are produced by mammography. Mammograms are black and white images of the tissues of your breast captured by an X-ray that is shown on the screen of a computer. The images are examined by a radiologist to look for signs of breast cancer or benign conditions that may need follow up treatment or further testing.

Some of the possible findings on a mammogram include:

  • Calcifications or calcium deposits in the ducts and other tissues

  • Lumps or masses

  • Presence of asymmetric areas on the breast X-ray

  • Dense areas present only in one breast or one specific area of the breast X-ray

  • New dense area that was not present in your last mammogram

Calcification can occur as a result of cellular debris, cellular secretions, trauma and inflammation. Irregular, tiny deposits referred to as microcalcifications may be seen with cancer. Larger, coarse deposits of calcium may be caused as a result of aging of fibroadenoma (a benign tumor).

If areas of concern are noted by the radiologist on your mammogram, they may recommend further testing including compression or magnification views, ultrasound imaging or biopsy.


Please Log In or add your name and email to post the comment.