Getting a mammogram for the first time? Here are 19 things you should expect

A mammogram is an important step in taking care of yourself and your breasts. If it’s your first time getting one, knowing what to expect may help the process go more smoothly.

Sandrina Rodrigues

Sep 28, 2023, 8:30 AM

Updated 293 days ago


A mammogram is an important step in taking care of yourself and your breasts.  
If it’s your first time getting one, knowing what to expect may help the process go more smoothly. 
According to Cedars-Sinai, a mammogram is a low-dose imaging system used to examine breast tissue. It can help doctors detect abnormalities, like lumps that are too small to be felt.

Below find 19 things you should expect:

1. If you have a choice, use a facility that specializes in mammograms and does many mammograms a day. FDA database: Mammography facilities.
2. Try to go to the same facility every time so that your mammograms can easily be compared from year to year.
3. If you’re going to a facility for the first time, bring a list of the places and dates of mammograms, biopsies, or other breast treatments you’ve had before.
4. Schedule your mammogram when your breasts are not tender or swollen to help reduce discomfort and get good pictures. Try to avoid the week just before your period.
5. On the day of the exam, don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant. Some of these contain substances that can show up on the X-ray as white spots. 
6. You might find it easier to wear a skirt or pants, so that you’ll only need to remove your top and bra for the mammogram.
7. Discuss any recent changes or problems in your breasts with your health care provider before getting the mammogram.
8. Always describe any breast changes or problems you’re having to the technologist doing the mammogram. Also describe any medical history that could affect your breast cancer risk—such as surgery, hormone use, breast cancer in your family, or if you’ve had breast cancer before.
9. Before getting any type of imaging test, tell the technologist if you’re breastfeeding or if you think you might be pregnant.
10. You’ll have to undress above the waist to get a mammogram. The facility will give you a wrap to wear.
11. A technologist will position your breasts for the mammogram. You and the technologist are the only ones in the room during the mammogram.
12. To get a high-quality picture, your breast must be flattened. The technologist places your breast on the machine’s plate. The plastic upper plate is lowered to compress your breast for a few seconds while the technologist takes a picture. You will then need to change position before the next picture is taken.
13. The whole procedure takes about 20 minutes. The actual breast compression only lasts a few seconds each time. 
14. You might feel some discomfort when your breasts are compressed, and for some women it can be painful. Tell the technologist if it hurts.
15. Two views of each breast are taken for a screening mammogram. But for some women, such as those with breast implants or large breasts, more pictures may be needed.
16. A diagnostic mammogram is often done if a woman has breast cancer symptoms or if a change is seen on a screening mammogram.
17. More pictures are taken during a diagnostic mammogram with a focus on the area that looked different on the screening mammogram.
18. During a diagnostic mammogram, the images are checked by the radiologist while you’re there so that more pictures can be taken if needed to look more closely at any area of concern.
19. In some cases, special images known as spot views or magnification views are used to make a small area of concern easier to see.
The American Cancer Society urges patients to not be afraid of mammograms! Remember that only two to four screening mammograms in 1,000 lead to a diagnosis of breast cancer.

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