What to Expect at Your First Mammogram Transcript

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Date: October 2008
Duration: 0 / 02:43

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For most women, a mammogram is the most effective tool used to detect breast cancer. A mammogram uses low-dose x-rays to create an image of the breast tissue. It is able to detect lumps that are too small to be felt. M. D. Anderson recommends that women get annual mammograms beginning at age 40.

Prior to menopause, you may want to schedule your mammogram for the week following your menstrual period, since your breasts may be less tender. Wear a two-piece outfit so you only have to remove your top. You will be given a gown to wear. You may want to schedule your mammogram early in the day since you can not wear deodorant, powder, cream or ointment on, or in, the chest area because they may show up on the x-ray as artifacts that may look like a breast problem. Also, bring the name, address and phone number of the health care provider who referred you for the mammogram so the facility can arrange for the report to be sent to them.

Your mammogram will be performed by a mammographer, a skilled radiologic technician in mammographic positioning and techniques. The test will be performed using a special x-ray machine that delivers low-dose x-rays to the breast and has special platforms or paddles used to compress the breast.

Some women worry that a mammogram will be painful. Compression of the breast is sometimes uncomfortable however it is very important as it allow allows the breast tissue to spread and flatten. This ensures a clear view of the breast tissue and reduces the amount of radiation needed to make an image. Your breast will be only compressed for 20 to 30 seconds. The entire mammogram procedure takes about 30 minutes.

A radiologist will review your x-rays and a send your referring health care provider a report of the findings. It is not uncommon for an initial mammogram to have suspicious findings since there are no previous mammograms that can be used for comparison. Most suspicious findings are benign and may be nothing more than cysts or spots of dense tissue. Occasionally suspicious findings are the result of an unclear image. An additional mammogram to further evaluate a trouble spot is called a diagnostic mammogram and will focus on the problem area. In some cases, a breast ultrasound may also be recommended.

You may want to schedule your mammogram during your birthday month. This is an easy way to remember this important annual screening exam and a great way to celebrate your good health

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