What to Expect in a Mammogram

by Katelyn Schwanke
(last updated November 15, 2011)

Women of all ages are often leary of mammograms. Perhaps you are one of these women, having heard that they are uncomfortable or even painful. Mammograms are simple medical tests which have benefits that far out weigh any perceived discomfort. Knowing ahead of time what to expect from a mammogram can help women feel motivated to be tested regularly.

A mammogram is like an x-ray, as it employs low-dose ionizing radiation that allows for images of the breast tissue to be projected in picture form for analyzing. During the procedure, a doctor will gently compress your breast to "even out" the tissue in order to more clearly analyze it. The doctor will take images from all angles to ensure a thorough and effective examination. You should be careful not to apply deodorant or lotion the day of your examination, as some of these can cause spots to appear on the x-ray. It is recommended that you have an examination done at least once a year and up to five times a year.

Mammograms should be supplemented by self breast examinations. Each month women of all ages, age twenty and up, should do a self breast examination. Self breast examinations are easy and can be done following the "seven-P rule":

  • position (stand in front of a mirror)
  • perimeter (feel the entire breast)
  • palpate (feel for lumps or masses)
  • pressure (palpate with increasing levels of pressure)
  • pattern (use a pattern for consistency in order to avoid missing an area of the breast)
  • practice (become aware of how healthy tissue feels)
  • plan (understand the process of what to do if you do find a mass or lump)

If either you or the radiologist suspect a mass, there are several steps taken to find out whether or not the mass is benign (no risk) or malignant (cancerous tissue). A biopsy (a tissue sample), ultrasound, and other procedures may be done to determine the mass type. Be aware that out of 1,000 women in the United States, seventy are called back because the radiologist sees a mass in the x-ray; only two percent of women will have a form of cancer referred to as "low stage," which often can be cured quite effectively.

You should be aware of the risk of "false negatives"; false negatives are results that appear benign or healthy when there is actually unhealthy tissue or a mass growing. There is a ten percent chance of you getting a false negative.

Regular mammograms and supplemental self examinations are key in effective prevention and early detection of breast cancer and can greatly reduce your risk. If you still have questions on what to expect at your first mammogram you may call your radiologist's office and speak to an RN.

Author Bio

Katelyn Schwanke

MORE FROM KATELYN

What to Expect in the First Trimester

Pregnancy can be relatively frightening if you do not know what to expect. Even though all pregnancies are different, there ...

Discover More

Top Five Complications during Pregnancy

Many women experience anxiety during pregnancy because of the variety of risks and complications that present themselves. ...

Discover More

Reducing Stretch Marks

Many women notice stretch marks after they have delivered their baby. Stretch marks can be embarrassing and negatively effect ...

Discover More
More Health Tips

Getting a Tubal Ligation

Considering "getting your tubes tied"? Here's what you need to know before you take that big leap.

Discover More

Menopause Symptoms

You've probably heard of or experienced some of the dreaded symptoms of menopause, but what exactly are they? Read on for ...

Discover More

Understanding Early Onset Menopause

Early menopause may occur in women under age 40 without warning and can be very traumatic because it signals the loss of ...

Discover More
Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 8 + 8?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)