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What you need to know about a mammogram:

A mammogram is an x-ray of your breasts to screen for breast cancer. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about the benefits and risks of mammograms. Together you will decide when you will get your first mammogram. This is usually at age 45 or 50. Your provider may recommend you start at 40 or younger if your risk for breast cancer is high. Mammograms usually continue every 1 to 2 years until age 74.

How to prepare for a mammogram:

  • Do not use deodorant, powder, lotion, or perfume. These products may cause particles to appear on your mammogram.
  • Wear a 2-piece outfit.
  • If your breasts are tender before your monthly period, do not have a mammogram during this time. Schedule your mammogram for 1 week after your period ends.
  • If you are breastfeeding, express as much milk as possible before the mammogram.
  • Bring a list of the dates and places of your past mammograms and other breast tests or treatments.

What will happen during a mammogram:

A top view and a side view x-ray are usually done for each breast. Tell healthcare providers if you have breast implants or breast problems before you have your mammogram. You may need extra x-rays of each breast.

  • You will be given a hospital gown. Take off your clothes from the waist up. Wear the hospital gown so that it opens in the front.
  • You will sit or stand next to a small x-ray machine. The healthcare provider will help you place one of your breasts on the x-ray plate. Your arm and breast will be moved until your breast is in the correct position.
  • Your breast will be gently pressed between 2 plates for a few seconds while the x-ray is taken. This may be uncomfortable.
  • You will be asked to hold your breath while the x-ray is taken. Another x-ray will be taken of the same breast after the position of the x-ray machine has been changed.
  • Your other breast will be x-rayed the same way.

What will happen after your mammogram:

Your breasts may feel tender for a short time after the mammogram. You may go back to your regular activities. Ask your healthcare provider when you should receive the results of your mammogram.

Risks of a mammogram:

You will be exposed to a small amount of radiation. Some breast cancers may not show up on mammograms.

Call your doctor if:

  • You do not receive your results when expected.
  • You have questions or concerns about the mammogram.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Mammogram (Ambulatory Care)

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