What is it?
Mammography is a low dose X-ray that is used to take images of the breasts. Doctors use it to diagnose breast disease in women. Mammography can detect changes in the breast up to 2 years before you or your physician can feel them. Your doctor will determine when you should begin having routine mammograms based on your family history of cancer. The American Cancer Society advises women 40 and older to have a mammogram performed annually since the risk of breast cancer increases as a woman gets older.
How do I prepare?
You shouldn’t schedule your mammogram the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. It is best to schedule the test one week after your period. If there’s a possibility that you are pregnant your doctor or the technologist must be informed prior to the test being conducted. Other preparations that you should make are:
- Do not wear deodorant, powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts. They can appear on your mammogram as calcium spots.
- Tell your doctor and the technologist of any breast symptoms or problems that you have been experiencing.
You will be asked to remove all jewelry and clothing above the waist before the exam. A gown or loose fitting material that opens in the front will be provided.
How is the procedure performed?
You will stand in front of the X-ray machine, and the technologist will place your breast between two plastic/plexiglass plates. The plates press your breast as flat as possible for clear images to be taken. This compression will cause you to feel pressure on the breast. Let your technologist know if you are experiencing significant discomfort so the compression can be lessened.
The technologist will position your body and arm in a way that will help the images come out as clear as possible. The technologist will then go behind a glass shield to take the images. You will be asked to change positions slightly between images.
The process usually takes about 30 minutes. You will be asked to wait while the technologist views the images to see if more are needed.