What Should I Expect From My First Mammogram?

Most women have their first mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40, depending on their personal and family medical history. This test is very common, and for good reason – it’s effective for detecting abnormal changes in breast tissue caused by various breast diseases.

That’s not to say that if your physician has recommended a mammogram, he or she thinks that you have breast cancer. Mammograms are often used for preventive purposes and most produce normal results. However, in the event that your mammogram shows anything out of the ordinary, your physician can provide you with a prompt explanation and recommend an appropriate plan of action.

Preparing for a mammogram

Mammograms are relatively simple, but there are several steps you can take to prepare in advance. Your physician will likely recommend that you:

  • Schedule your appointment during the week after your menstrual period to minimize discomfort
  • Avoid wearing deodorant, antiperspirant, lotion, perfume and talcum powder to ensure the most accurate results
  • Wear a loose fitting top that you can easily remove and put back on
  • Avoid wearing earrings and necklaces (or wear jewelry that you can easily remove before the test)

Most mammograms take just 10 to 20 minutes. You’ll be asked to change into a wrap in a private dressing area. An X-ray technician will then position each of your breasts in a mammogram machine, one at a time. While your breast rests on a fixed plate for support, an upper plate will gently compress it, which will allow for a more detailed image. Meanwhile, the technician will use the machine to generate several images of your breast tissue. Some women find the compression to be a bit uncomfortable, but it typically does not hurt. If you’re concerned about discomfort, you can take an over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol an hour or two prior to your mammogram.

How long does it take to get mammogram results?

It usually takes a few days for a radiologist to review the results of a mammogram. When you see a new provider for the first time, you should ask how you’ll receive your results. Some providers call their patients regardless of whether the results are negative (normal) or positive (abnormal), while other centers only call their patients if a mammogram reveals something out of the ordinary. Knowing when and under what circumstances you’ll be contacted can provide you with greater peace of mind.

If you’d like to schedule a routine breast cancer screening or have the results of an abnormal mammogram reviewed by an experienced oncologist, call 1-888-663-3888 or submit a new patient registration form online. The multispecialty team in our Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Cancer Program welcomes patients with and without referrals.