Preparing for Your Mammogram

This exam uses low-dose x-rays to make a picture of breast tissue. The picture is called a mammogram.

Prior to Test

There are no special steps to prepare for this exam.

There is no proven method to decrease discomfort, but you can try:

  • Scheduling the exam when breast tissue is least tender. This is most often a week after your period.
  • Avoiding caffeinated drinks.
  • Applying skin numbing products - The FDA has issued a warning about using skin numbing products (also called topical anesthetics) for this purpose.
Schedule a Screening Mammogram Online

NOTE: Tell the technician if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have breast implants - Ask if the facility uses special techniques to accommodate implants. Implants make it hard to see breast tissue.

What to Expect During Your Mammogram

On the day of your exam:

  • Do not apply deodorant, talcum powder, lotion, or perfume near your breasts or under your arms.
  • Ask your doctor if you should take a pain medicine like ibuprofen to relieve discomfort.
  • Wear comfortable clothing so you can easily remove your shirt.
  • Remove jewelry.
  • Bring copies of previous mammograms and reports with you. If you have them done in the same facility each time, they will have results of prior years. The doctor can compare the old images to the new ones.
  • Describe any breast problems to the technician before the exam.

Description of Test

You will stand in front of a special x-ray machine. It has a platform to place your breast on. The technician will adjust the height of the platform. One breast will be lifted and placed between special plates that hold film. The plate is brought close to the platform and compresses the breast. This allows for a clearer image. The exam will cause some discomfort. Tell the technician if you feel any pain.

At least two pictures of each breast are taken. For one picture, you face toward the platform and the image is taken looking down at the breast. For a second common image, you stand beside the machine. This allows for a side view. Extra images may be needed if you have implants. Your doctor may also need more images if this test is being used to help make a diagnosis.

After Test

You will wait in the facility until the x-rays are developed. More images may be needed. You can go home after the exam.

How Long Will It Take?

30-45 minutes

Will It Hurt?

You may feel some discomfort and pain.