What to Expect For Your First Mammogram

Compassionate Gainesville gynecologists at All About Women explain breast cancer screenings step-by-step so you know what to anticipate before your appointment

Your first mammogram screening can be a little scary and stressful if you don’t know what to expect. It’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but there is no need to worry! Many women have done it numerous times and educating yourself on the process can help your first exam to be a lot less nerve-wracking.

Just remember, mammograms save lives.

A mammogram is a preventative measure and is the best way to detect and diagnose breast cancer. Breast cancer isn’t genetic, and no amount of healthy eating or exercise can fully prevent it, so it’s important for every woman to have regular mammograms to remain strong and healthy. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better chance of survival and recovery.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women who are over 40 years have a mammogram every year.

What to Expect

Mammograms can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes. After removing your gown, the technician will ask you stand in front of the mammography machine. The technician will adjust the platform and ask you to place one breast on it. A clear plastic plate will apply pressure to spread out the breast tissue.

The pressure is slightly uncomfortable, even painful, but it will only last for about 20-30- seconds. The pressure helps to spread the breast evenly and hold it still so the mammography machine can get a clearer x-ray and use less radiation in the process.

The technician will be there to help position your body and arms appropriately around the machine. During the process of the x-ray, you will also be asked to close your eyes and hold your breath. Each breast is examined individually, and then you will be asked to redress once the exam is done.

Preparing For a Mammogram

There are a few things that first-timers might not know about mammograms. Here’s a few suggestions on how to prepare for your mammogram:

  • Avoid wearing any deodorant, lotion, perfumes, oils, or powders to your exam. These products can interfere with the x-ray and produce unclear images. If you’re worried about going all day without deodorant, schedule you’re appointment early in the day so you can get back to normal as soon as possible.

  • If you’re worried about the pain of the mammogram, take an over-the-counter pain reliever before going in for your mammogram appointment.

  • Wear a separate top and bottom so that you can remove just your top for the exam. After removing your top, you will be given a gown to wear until the exam begins.

  • Since the exam can be painful, schedule your appointment at a time when your breasts are the least tender. For most women, that’s typically after your period ends.

The Results

Once tested, a radiologist will look over the images from your mammogram and give the results to your doctor within 30 days.

It’s important to know that women often get suspicious results after the first exam, mainly because doctors do not have any images to compare with the new ones. This is why it’s important to save all your mammogram images so that doctors can see any changes or problematic areas over time.

If there are any suspicious spots in your x-ray, your doctor may call for a second mammogram or even a breast ultrasound.

Don’t be alarmed! Not every unusual finding is cancer. It could be a cyst, dense breast tissue, or just an unclear image. There is no need for worry. Dr. TB Bevers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center says that 80% of callbacks are benign.

Whatever your mammogram results are, it’s important to continue getting regular mammograms.

Women, even young women, can perform monthly breast self-examinations to be aware of any changes in the shape of their breasts or nearby areas of the body, but self-examinations should never replace regular mammograms or visits to your gynecologist. While young women are less likely to get breast cancer, young women typically have thicker, denser breasts, which make any abnormalities harder to feel. Mammograms are important tools in the early detection of breast cancer for women of all ages.

If it’s time for you to get a mammogram, the compassionate professionals at All About Women are here to help with any preventative care needs that you may have, whether it’s your first time or your tenth. Contact us today and set up an appointment. For more information, check out our knowledge center for general women’s health advice.