What Should You Know about Mammograms?

Because mammography may detect lesions in breast tissue that are very small or deeply buried and not felt during palpation, mammography is considered the best method to detect breast lesions.

Regular mammograms significantly decrease the death rate from cancer for women over 50, and more recent research shows a reduction in the death rate from breast cancer in women between the ages of 35-40.


Even if you are symptom-free, it is recommended that you have a mammogram by the age of 40 to establish a baseline for what is normal for your breasts. It is recommended in the American Cancer Society's booklet, Cancer: Facts and Figures 2002, that women ages 40-49 have a screening mammogram every year, even if they have no symptoms. Your physician may recommend mammography more frequently, regardless of your age, if your medical history indicates that you are at high risk for breast cancer.

What is a Mammogram Like?

Approximately half the women who have a mammogram complain of some minor discomfort due to the breast compression during the test. This compression is necessary in order to obtain a clear picture of the breasts using the lowest amount of radiation. The compression of the breast during mammogram is not dangerous, it does not damage the breast tissue and the discomfort it causes is temporary.
You may also find, after your mammogram, some discoloration of the skin of one or both breasts. This is temporary in nature and will resolve without intervention.


How Do I Prepare for a Mammogram?

If possible, do not use deodorant or powder under your arms before having a mammogram. (Deodorant is provided for use after your mammogram by the Women's Diagnostic Center). If you must use deodorant, you will be asked to remove it prior to the procedure with cleansing wipes provided by the Women's Diagnostic Center. You may also want to wear clothing with a separate shirt or blouse, since you will be asked to partially disrobe and wear a hospital gown.


Please check with your insurance carrier to determine how frequently mammography screening can be done. Many insurance carriers will not cover routine screenings more frequently than every 365 days.