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What Should I Expect with My Breast Cancer Screening?

Clipboards on a table at a doctors office

A screening mammogram is a type of low dose X-ray which images the breast to look for early signs of breast cancer. This does not prevent breast cancer, but can help find the cancer early. This test is done for those who do not have any breast symptoms or problems.

A diagnostic mammogram is used to look at breast tissue if the patient has symptoms, a change is seen in the screening mammogram, or if there is a history of breast cancer. This test may include additional images of the breast that are not used with the screening exam.

How do I prepare for my mammogram?

  • Try to go to the same facility every time so that the mammograms can be easily compared from year to year
  • If you are going to a facility to the first time, have information about your previous mammograms, biopsies or breast procedures to give to the radiologist. You can even bring your old records so that the old and new pictures can be compared for changes
  • Try to avoid wearing deodorant or powder under your arms or on your breast on the day of exam as these may make the images harder to interpret
  • Try scheduling your mammogram during the two weeks after your period to minimize any discomfort

What to expect when getting a screening mammogram:

  • You will have to undress above the waist to get the mammogram.
  • Your breast will be positioned for the mammogram and your breasts may be compressed to obtain the pictures needed
  • You may have some discomfort during the procedure
  • The procedure usually takes about 20 minutes