Wellness & Education

Your First Mammogram-What to Expect

A mammogram is an imaging procedure used to screen for breast cancer (A screening checks for disease when there are no signs and symptoms present.). If you have never had one before, it can be a bit intimidating, as it involves a certain amount of undressing (of the breasts only), as well as putting your breasts one at a time between two flat pieces of plastic on the mammogram machine. The two pieces of plastic are moved closer together once your breast is in place. This will squeeze your breast slightly, but not very much. This is done in order to help the machine get a clearer picture of your breast tissue. 

As soon as your breast is in place, the technician will take the pictures. The head of the machine will move in a partial circle to take pictures of the inside of your breast (the breast tissue). No picture of the outside of your breast will be taken. This procedure will be done on each breast.  The test is non-invasive, meaning that the skin is not punctured, and nothing enters the body. Your breasts will only be uncovered for the time it takes to take pictures. 

A mammogram is designed to detect breast cancer in its early stages when there is the greatest likelihood of successful treatment.  Since breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women, mammograms are recommended for all women between the ages of 40 and 75. Your physician may recommend them at a younger age if there is a family history of breast cancer.    

When getting your first mammogram, here are some tips to remember:  

  • Your appointment will take 20 to 30 minutes.  
  • For the best quality images, avoid wearing deodorant or baby powder.  
  • When scheduling a mammogram appointment, be sure to ask which type of mammogram machine will be used. 3D mammogram machines, like the one used at RMH, compress the breast less than 2D mammogram machines.
  • You will be given a gown to replace your clothing from the waist up, so wearing a separate top and bottom is more convenient than wearing a dress.  
  • Your results will be posted online in the secure and private RMH Patient Portal within 3 days. They will be mailed to you within one week 
  • If there are any questionable results on your mammogram, your provider can contact you about scheduling additional diagnostic procedures.  
  • You may receive a letter requesting additional imaging after your first mammogram. This is common and should not be concerning.   
  • Some women have dense breast tissue. If  you have this, it will be noted in  the letter  you receive. Dense breast tissue is normal and should not cause any worry, but it can make it harder to detect the presence of cancer. Is Dense Breast Tissue a Problem? | Rush Memorial Hospital