Getting a mammogram can almost be considered one of the rites of passage in any woman’s life. If you’re about to go for your first mammogram, it might be helpful to know what’s in store so you can prepare.  Knowing what is involved may also help you to think of questions to ask your doctor during the process.

What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a low-radiation X-ray that is used to project a picture of your breasts on a computer screen.

Who does the procedure?
A radiologic technologist – a specialist nationally certified in mammography equipment – will perform your mammogram. This person will carefully examine your X-rays and make a medical diagnosis.

What is the right age to begin mammograms?
A routine screening is recommended for all women over the age of 40 – even if they are healthy and don’t have any symptoms or concerns. Doctors recommend a mammogram every two years from age 40 to 50, and every year after age 50. If you experience lumps, discharge, tenderness or anything unusual, don’t hesitate to get a diagnostic mammogram, regardless of your age.

How should I prepare?
Schedule your mammogram the first two weeks following your period. During that time, your breasts will be less swollen and sensitive. Do not use any deodorant, lotion, powder or any other product near your breasts or underarms, as the X-rays may pick it up and skew the mammogram results. If you have had mammograms in the past, bring that information for your doctor. Always let your doctor know if you are pregnant or suspect you might be.

What can I expect the day of my mammogram?
You will undress from the waist up and wear a gown. You’ll be asked a few questions about your medical history and about breast cancer in your family. Your breasts may need to be examined by the mammography technologist for irregularities.
You will then be placed in front of a machine that shows the thickness of your breast. While standing, your breast will be positioned on the machine and firm pressure will be applied. You may experience slight discomfort, but it will only last for a minute or two while the X-ray is being taken. The whole process should take 45 minutes to one hour.

Why are my breasts compressed?
Compression is used for three reasons: To reduce the amount of radiation, to improve the quality of the image, and to detect any suspicious lumps, lesions or other abnormalities.

What happens after my mammogram?
In most cases, you will receive the results of your mammogram in a day or two. Your radiologist will review the images and let you know if any symptoms are present. There are no restrictions after the procedure – you can do all the activities you normally do. You may notice a slight soreness or discoloration from the compression, but it should disappear in a day or two.
All in all, mammograms are a quick, painless process and a great way to give peace of mind. If you have any additional questions, or would like to schedule a mammogram, please contact Dr. Hessel’s office today. We look forward to assisting you!