First Mammogram? Here’s What You Can Expect

Did you recently schedule your first mammogram? If so, great job! A mammogram is an incredibly valuable screening exam that can help detect cancers at their earliest, most treatable stages.

Every woman’s first mammogram experience is deeply personal, but it can feel slightly invasive to some. In fact, it can leave even the fiercest females with lingering questions beforehand, including:

  • How do I prepare for a mammogram?
  • What should I expect during the breast exam?
  • What will compression feel like?
  • How long does the exam take?
  • Do I really need a mammogram every year?

By learning how to prepare for your first mammogram, and what you can expect during the exam, you can quickly eliminate many of these questions that may be causing you to feel anxious.

Of course, if you have questions beforehand, we invite you to contact us for support and to address your concerns. We want you to feel confident and empowered on your journey to better health and wellness!

To help put your mind at ease, we’ve compiled a few answers to the questions listed above.

How to Prepare for Your First Mammogram

Rest assured that preparing for your first mammogram is simple! Below we’ve listed a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before the exam:

  • Choose the right time: Be sure to schedule your mammogram during the week following your period, when your breasts are less tender. This may help reduce discomfort from compression during the exam.
  • Avoid wearing deodorant, powder, or lotion: Don’t wear deodorant, powder, or lotion near your breasts or your underarms on the day of your exam. Sometimes, these products can look like calcium spots on mammogram images, which may interfere with an accurate diagnosis.
  • Send previous mammogram images: If you’ve had a previous mammogram at a different facility, ask to have a copy of the images transferred to The Breast Center of Maple Grove. Prior images allow the radiologist to see changes over time, which is critical in diagnosing very early stage breast cancers.
  • Wear no-fuss clothing: Choose clothes that are easy to take on and off and be sure to wear a two-piece outfit so you can remove just the top portion for your exam.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry: You will need to remove your jewelry—especially earrings and necklaces—before the exam. It’s best not to wear jewelry that day so you don’t have to worry about storing it or losing it.

What To Expect During a Mammogram

An experienced female technologist will conduct your mammogram.

First, she’ll ask you questions about your personal medical history and relevant family history. If you have any questions about your exam, your technologist will be happy to answer them and help you feel comfortable.

Next, you’ll change into a warm soft robe, removing all jewelry and accessories.

Afterward, the technologist will position your breast between two plates, which will then compress the breast while an image is taken. The technologist will reposition the breast, which will be compressed and imaged again.

Finally, the process will be repeated on the other breast.

Guess what? That’s it! The actual exam portion takes less than 10 minutes to complete.

Getting Your Mammogram Results

Your mammogram images will be read by a board certified radiologist, who will send a full report to your referring physician.

If you are one of the approximately 40% of women in America with dense breast tissue, you’ll also receive a letter with this information. Dense breast tissue and cancer both appear white on mammogram images, which can make it more difficult to diagnose breast cancer.

If you have dense breast tissue, there are additional breast imaging options available, including ultrasound and MRI. Speak with your doctor to decide what is right for you.

After reviewing the screening mammogram images, the radiologist may need to get a closer look at a particular area of breast tissue. In that case, you may be called back to the breast center for a diagnostic mammogram.

This does not mean you have cancer! Nearly 90% of patients who are called back for a diagnostic mammogram are not diagnosed with cancer. However, it is important to follow up and have additional imaging if recommended by the radiologist.

What Will Compression Feel Like?

Though compression can be uncomfortable, it is well-tolerated by most women. It’s also very important. It allows the breast tissue to spread and flatten. This guarantees a clear view of the breast and reduces the radiation needed to capture detailed images of the breast tissue.

If you’re concerned about feeling discomfort, it may help to take an over-the-counter pain medication about an hour before your appointment.

If you have any questions or concerns about the procedure, our team is here to help! Give us a call, so we can answer your questions.

How Long Is a Mammogram? 

The entire mammogram procedure will take about 30 minutes to complete. This includes the consultation beforehand with the technologist. Your technologist will help you get into the proper position and then each breast will be compressed for about 30 seconds.

When Should You Get Your First Mammogram?

Most radiologists agree that the average woman should begin receiving annual screening mammograms at age 40. Women at higher risk, or with additional risk factors, may need screening mammograms earlier or more often.

It’s always best to talk with your doctor to decide how early, or how often, you should get a mammogram.

Are Mammograms Really Necessary Every Year?

For most women, the answer is yes! Experts from the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, and the physicians at The Breast Center of Maple Grove agree that most women at average risk should receive annual mammograms.

The goal of a screening mammogram is to diagnose breast cancer in its earliest stages, when treatments tend to be more effective, and survival rates are higher. It’s not just another mammogram, it’s a proactive step to ensure your health moving forward.

Here are a few other reasons you’ll want to consider:

  • Early Detection Saves Lives: When breast cancer is diagnosed and treated in the earliest stages, treatments tend to be more effective, and survival rates are higher.
  • Comparison Images are Helpful: If certain areas of breast tissue change over time, it could be an indicator of a potential cancer. When you get a mammogram every year, your radiologist can use these images to see exactly what has changed, and whether there is something to be concerned about.
  • A Normal Mammogram Isn’t Guaranteed Every Year: Even if you’ve had normal mammograms in the past, breast tissue can change. When it comes to your breast health, it’s better to be safe and proactive!

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