What is mammography?

Mammography is an exam of the breast tissue and a screening tool for early detection of breast cancer.

What can you expect during your mammography exam?

A trained technologist positions your breast in the mammography unit on a special platform. The breast is compressed slowly with a clear plastic paddle. Compression makes the breast tissue more uniform in thickness, improving the quality of the image and the visibility of small abnormalities.

While the breast is compressed, a series of images is taken from various angles. You will adjust your position slightly throughout the process. It is important to remain very still as the pictures are being taken to avoid blurry images.

The procedure is performed on each breast. The entire exam takes about 30 minutes.

Computer Aided Detection (CAD) is utilized at most facilities in conjunction with the Radiologist’s Reading. This aids the Radiologist in detection of abnormalities in the breast. It is like a second set of eyes reviewing your exam except it is computer generated.

How can you prepare for your mammography exam?

  • Discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your doctor before scheduling an exam.
  • Inform your doctor of prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer.
  • Avoid having a mammogram during the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time.
  • Keep in mind that the best time for a mammogram is one week following your period. Inform your doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility you are pregnant.

The American Cancer Society also recommends that during your mammography exam:

  • Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam. These substances can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
  • Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
  • If possible, give prior mammograms to the radiologist at the time of the current exam.