Mammography is pictures of the breasts made with X-rays. Very low doses of x-rays are used for mammography. A Screening Mammogram is an exam performed for patients who have no known problems with their breasts and are interested to know if they might have a developing cancer that they cannot yet feel. Screening Mammograms are generally recommended once a year, beginning at age 40. A Diagnostic Mammogram is for patients who have a known breast problem that is being evaluated or followed.
If you have prior exams at another facility bring your prior mammogram images so that the radiologist can compare them with your new images. These prior studies may be on film or compact disc. Don’t use underarm deodorant or any other kind of cream, lotion, ointment or powder before your mammogram. Particles in powders and deodorants can cause confusion on your mammogram.
Prior to your exam, you will change into an examination gown, usually in a dressing room with lockable lockers. You will be taken to an examination room where a registered mammogram technologist will help position you for your breast exams. Each breast will be examined in two or three different views. For each view, your breast will be compressed by a plastic plate called a paddle. Compressing the breast often produces some discomfort for the brief time required to obtain the image, but the compression is important to get the best possible picture of the breast; in fact, some problems in the breast cannot be seen without compression. The exam usually takes about 15 minutes to complete.
If you have not been through menopause, the best time to schedule your mammogram is the week after your period. This is the time that your breasts are least likely to be tender. The breasts are most tender one week before and during your period.