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What do I need to know about a mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray of your breasts to screen for breast cancer. Experts recommend mammograms every 2 years starting at age 50 years. You may need a mammogram at age 49 years or younger if you have an increased risk for breast cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about when you should start having mammograms and how often you need them.

How do I 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 to be done 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 plastic 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 my mammogram?

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

What are the risks of a mammogram?

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

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You cannot make your appointment on time.
  • You do not receive your results when expected.
  • You have questions or concerns about the mammogram.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.