What To Expect At A Mammogram

It’s time for your first annual mammogram, every woman’s favorite 40th birthday present. Honestly, it probably ranks high on your list of things you’d rather do without, close behind your pap smear. But mammograms are an important part of preventive care, and what they show your doctor can save your life. So in the case that this is your first mammogram (or your first in a long time), here’s what you can expect when you have yours.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a screening tool for breast cancer. It shows abnormal areas in your breast tissue and will help your healthcare provider determine if you need additional tests. Mammograms can reveal nearly 90 percent of breast cancers as early as two years before a lump can be felt.

Who should have a mammogram?

We recommend that all women over the age of 40 have an annual mammogram. If you are under the age of 40 and concerned about an abnormality in your breast, you should talk to your primary care physician or OB-GYN before seeking a mammogram on your own.

Is there anything I should consider before I go to my first mammogram?

There are a few things to keep in mind before you go in for your first mammogram.

  • You might want to wear pants or a skirt rather than a dress, because you will have to undress from the waist up. You will be given a gown to wear for privacy.
  • Don’t wear deodorant, powders or lotions to your appointment. It can show up as white dots in your X-ray.
  • Bring any information you have about any prior breast procedures, including images, biopsies or surgeries. 

How long will my mammogram take?

Most mammograms take less than 30 minutes.

What is the mammogram process like?

A mammographer will position your breast on a machine to take X-rays. The machine has two clear plates, and the upper plate will be lowered to compress your breast between it and the lower plate. This spreads out the breast tissue, allowing for clear images. The compression only lasts a few seconds.

Does it hurt to have a mammogram?

Because your breast needs to be squeezed to flatten the tissue, some women describe a mammogram as uncomfortable. Others feel nothing. It depends somewhat on how dense or fatty your breast tissue is, and how much your breast needs to be spread to produce a clear and complete image. Your mammographer will assess how you are feeling throughout the exam so they can adjust things to make you more comfortable if needed.

Does breast size matter during a mammogram?

Size can be a factor in your overall mammogram experience. If you have larger breasts, the mammographer may need to image your breast in sections to ensure every area is captured. If you have smaller breasts, your tissue will be very close to your chest wall and you may feel more of a tug on that tissue to get all of your breast into the image. But don’t worry, our mammographers are experts in positioning your body and the machine to create an optimal experience.

How quickly will I get my mammogram results?

Most mammogram results are available within two to three days, but they can take up to 10 days if there is a delay in obtaining past mammogram results. The radiologist reading your X-rays will compare any prior mammograms to your new images to determine if there have been any changes in your breast tissue.

What do I do if I have abnormal mammogram results?

Around 3 in 1,000 mammograms result in a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. If you have an abnormal result at Madison County Health Care System, we will call you to explain your results, go over your next steps, reassure you, and answer any questions you have. We can help you decide which additional tests and consultations are appropriate.

How can I schedule a mammogram?

Scheduling a mammogram at Madison County Health Care System is easy! Call (515) 462-5214 and our radiology department will get your appointment on the books!