Your First Mammogram: What to Expect

What Is a Mammogram?

Early detection of breast cancer is key to increasing your chances of survival — and mammograms play an important role. A mammogram provides an X-ray image of your breasts and is used to screen for breast cancer. Mammographies have dual purposes:

  • Screening
    Screening mammographies are done to detect any breast changes in women who may not be showing signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Screenings can assist in detecting breast cancer early before any noticeable symptoms or signs are present.
  • Diagnostics
    Diagnostic mammographies are used to explore any changes in the breast, such as a new lump, nipple discharge, unusual breast pain, or abnormal skin appearance. It can also be used to examine further any abnormal findings from a prior mammogram screening.

When Should You Start Having Regular Mammograms?

The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines when determining when to start regular mammogram screenings:

  • Women who are between 40 and 44 may opt to begin mammogram screenings yearly.
  • Women who are between 45 and 54 should get yearly mammogram screenings.
  • Women who are 55 and older can have mammograms every other year or can continue their annual mammogram exams.

Women who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer may benefit from mammogram screenings before the age of 40. If you are at high risk, consult with your doctor on how often you should have mammograms and other diagnostic tests for early detection.

Higher risks can include the following factors:

  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene
  • Women who have had a prior breast cancer diagnosis

How to Prepare For Your Mammogram

While mammograms are not painful, some women do find them uncomfortable. Typically a mammogram only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Here are some tips on how you can prepare:

  • Ensure the Food and Drug Administration has certified the facility that will be conducting your mammogram.
  • It’s best to schedule a mammogram when your breasts are likely to be tender. Try scheduling your mammogram a week before or during your period.
  • Do not wear deodorant, lotions, powders, or perfume under your arms or on your breasts. The metallic particles from these substances can show up on your mammogram, thus making it more challenging to read your results.

Take Our Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Test

Being aware of your risks of developing breast cancer is a critical component of early detection. Answering a few simple questions on our Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool can provide you with valuable information. To learn more about breast cancer treatment and prevention, contact The Parrish Cancer Center today at 321-529-6202. Our caring oncologists are here to help you every step of the way.