What Is A Mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. Mammograms can find breast cancer that is too small for you, your doctor, or nurse to feel. Finding breast cancer when it is small means that you have a better chance of surviving the disease and more choices for how to treat the disease. It is also used to diagnose or find out if a lump is cancerous.

How Is A Mammogram Done?

You will be asked to remove any clothing above the waist and a robe will be provided. You stand in front of an x-ray machine. The person who takes the x-rays places your breast between two plastic plates. The plates press your breast and make it flat. You will feel pressure on your breasts for a few seconds. This may be uncomfortable for you, but the flatter your breasts, the better the picture. You will have two pictures taken of each breast. The whole thing takes only a few minutes.

How Often Should I Have A Mammogram?

Women over 40 should get a mammogram at least once to be used as a baseline for later comparison. Women aged 50 to 69 are strongly encouraged to have a mammogram at least every two years. If you are under 50 or over 70, discuss the risk and benefits of having a mammogram with your doctor.

If you find a lump or see changes in your breast, talk to your doctor right away no matter what your age. Your doctor may want you to get a mammogram done to get a better look at your breast changes.

Where Can I Get A Mammogram?

IN the US, you want to get a mammogram from a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-certified facility. These places must meet high standards for their x-ray machines and staff. Call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-422-6237 or check out the FDA's web site on the Internet at: for a list of FDA-certified mammography facilities. Your doctor, local medical clinic, or county health department can tell you where to get no-cost or low-cost mammograms.

IN Canada, it's a simple matter of requesting your family physician make an appointment at your local hospital's x-ray department.

Do I Have To Prepare For My Mammogram?

You can get ready for your mammogram by doing the following things.

  1. Try to make your mammogram appointment for one week after your period. Your breasts hurt less after your period.

  2. Wear a shirt with shorts, pants, or a skirt. That way you can undress from the waist up and leave your shorts, pants, or skirt on when you get your mammogram.

  3. Do not wear any deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder under your arms or on your breasts on the day of your mammogram appointment. These things can make shadows show up on your mammogram.