Mammogram Preparation: What to Expect

Mammogram Preparation: What to Expect
Early detection of breast cancer can save your life. Knowing your risks is part of early detection, and so is a regular mammogram screening. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to detect and diagnose breast cancers, benign tumors and cysts before being found through a self or clinical breast exam. If mammography raises significant suspicion, your doctor may request a biopsy of the tissue.   

Women 40 years and older should have an annual mammogram. At 25 years old, women are encouraged to do self-breast exams, and it’s likely that your physician will provide a clinical breast exam during your annual physical — same as a self-breast exam, just done at your appointment.

Preparing for a Mammogram 

Here are some ways to increase comfort during your mammogram:

• Schedule your mammogram when your breasts are the least tender. For women who haven’t started menopause, this is a week after your menstrual cycle. 
• Schedule your appointment earlier in the day, since you can’t wear deodorant, powder, lotion or ointment around the breast area. These products may make it appear that there’s a problem on the X-ray when there isn’t. 
• Avoid wearing dresses or necklaces. A two piece outfit allows you to only have to remove one piece of clothing. You’ll wear a gown regardless. 
• Bring images of previous mammograms if you’re visiting a new facility.

What to Expect

Mammograms take 30 minutes, with 20-30 seconds of compression per breast. Pressure is applied to each breast to help spread tissue and reduce movement for quality images. It also helps minimize radiation exposure.

Women have screening options: a conventional mammogram and tomosynthesis (3D Mammography). A 3D mammogram is typically done in conjunction with your annual mammogram. Radiologists are able to view breast tissue in thin slices, meaning greater detail, with tomosynthesis. It’s particularly effective in women with dense breasts — breast density is determined by the radiologist who reads your mammogram.

Whether you’re in your 20s or 50s, the best option is to talk with your health care provider to determine the best screening route for you. Click here to learn how to reduce your risk of breast cancer through diet and lifestyle factors.  

Your partner in midlife wellness,
Dr. Laurie Back  
  • Laurie Birkholz, MD

    Laurie Birkholz, MD

    When Laurie Birkholz, MD, isn’t providing women’s health care at Lakeshore Health Partners, she enjoys the hiking trails and beaches in our community with husband, Eric, and their two daughters. Dr. Birkholz has a special interest in holistic health – focusing on all aspects of health-mind, body and spirit and their roles in continuing good health or returning to previous levels of health. From sexual health and cancer survivorship to nutrition and fitness counseling, Dr. Laurie helps women of all ages make their life a great life!

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