Posted by: wortix | February 15, 2009

Having a Mammogram

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By Pam Stephan


Scheduling the Appointment:

If you have a choice about scheduling your mammogram, you may like to choose a day that is not near your regular menstrual flow. The American Cancer Society reports that if your mammogram is done during the first 14 days of your menstrual cycle, it may be more accurate, in addition to being less painful. This is because breast tissue becomes more dense later in the cycle. Dense breast tissue is more difficult to image, which may give more false positives in regards to abnormalities.

Medical Records to Bring Along:

Bring a list of the most recent mammograms that you’ve had done. If you’ve had breast surgery, write down the dates and kinds of surgery, treatments, or biopsies you’ve had. You may need those to complete any paperwork before the appointment. Bring your medical insurance card with you, too.


On the day of your mammogram, don’t use talcum powder or deodorant. These may contain small particles of aluminum, which can show up on the image as calcifications. You may want to use cornstarch in place of deodorant, as that won’t interfere with the image. You might also want to avoid using any skin lotions on the breast that would make it slippery. There should not be any movement during the mammogram, as a blurred picture won’t give you a clear result.

Dress for Comfort:

Since you will be asked to undress from the waist up, wear a two-piece outfit. Clothes that fit loosely and that are easy to remove and replace are a plus. If you can skip the underwire bra for the day, you may feel more comfortable afterward, as there won’t be any hard wires to press on your just-compressed breast tissue. Bring along your hairbrush so you can tidy up after you redress.

At the Clinic:

You will be asked to undress from the waist up, and then put on a hospital gown, which will open to the front. In the exam room, you will have a technician to help you position yourself with the mammogram machine. Most mammograms are taken while you are standing up. If you have disabilities and must sit, there is a setup called the Bennett Contour Mammography System that will adjust to you.

Taking the Image:

Your technician will help you rest each breast on a metal plate and arrange as much breast tissue as possible between the bottom plate and the top compression plate. This can be cold and uncomfortable, but compression lasts an average of 10 seconds. Each breast will be imaged and compressed for vertical and lateral images. About 20% of the time, images must be redone to guarantee accuracy. Don’t worry if your technician tells you that the image must be redone – she is just being sure she got it right.

Extra Pictures:

If the technician shows your images to the radiologist, and she wants to see a particular feature closer-up, you may be asked to step back up for another picture. Perhaps a magnification is needed, or a repositioning will make the image clearer. Remember, this doesn’t always mean trouble –- just a desire for a more accurate result.

Getting the Results:

Your technician will not interpret the mammogram for you; her job is to get the most accurate image. Your radiologist may come out and speak to you about what appears on your mammogram, or she may write a report and send it to your doctor. You should also receive a letter by mail giving the general results of your mammogram. If you don’t hear from the clinic or your doctor within 10 days of the mammogram, call to see if the results have been reported. The American Cancer Society says, “All mammogram facilities are now required to send your results to you within 30 days.”

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