Mammogram Screening Patient Procedure Description

What is it?

Mammography is an x-ray exam, which uses low doses of radiation to detect breast cancer before it can be felt by you or your physician. Breast cancer can develop from tiny particles and masses less than one centimeter in diameter. Mammography is the most reliable means of detecting the cancer at its earliest stage, when it is highly curable.

A Screening Mammogram is a mammogram for patients with no symptoms. Each woman over the age of 40 is entitled to one every year. This exam is considered a self-referral and does not require an order from your physician. Most insurance companies will cover one every year.

What will happen to me?

You will be escorted to a dressing room where you will be asked to undress above the waist and put on a gown. A specially trained female technologist will perform the mammogram. Your breast will be placed on the film and under a compression paddle. The paddle will flatten your breast to expose as much of the tissue as possible.

Both breasts will be x-rayed from the top and from the side. The images will be evaluated by the radiologist (a physician who specializes in reading x-rays), a report will be sent to your personal physician and you will receive a letter in the mail.

If you have implants, an additional two (2) pictures will taken of each breast, for a total of eight (8) pictures.

How long will this test take?

Generally this test takes about 30 minutes unless you have implants, which may take up to 60 minutes. 

What will I feel? Will it hurt?

Some women do experience discomfort during the compression, but it should not be painful. The compression only lasts a matter of seconds and most women tolerate it very well.

What will the test show?

If this is your first mammogram a baseline will be started for you. If this is not your first mammogram, your current study will be compared to your prior study. The test will show the physician your breast composition and asymmetry and any abnormalities. 

How do I get ready?

If you have had prior mammograms at another facility you will need to request your prior films to be sent for comparison, otherwise there may be a delay in your reading. 

Do not use deodorant, powder, perfume or lotion on your breasts or underarm area before your mammogram. These substances sometimes leave a residue which may be detected by x-rays and affect the outcome of the exam.

How often should I have this done?

The American Cancer Society recommends the following examination schedule:

  • Age 35-40: Baseline mammogram
  • Age 40-49: A mammogram every year to two years, depending on physician recommendation
  • Age 50 and over: A mammogram every year