Mammograms

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer.

Why should I get a mammogram?

Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. When their breast cancer is found early, many women go on to live long and healthy lives.

When should I get a mammogram?

Women should have mammograms every two years from age 50 to 74 years. Talk to your health professional if you have any symptoms or changes in your breast, or if breast cancer runs in your family. He or she may recommend that you have mammograms before age 50 or more often than usual.

How is a mammogram done?

You will stand in front of a special X-ray machine. A technologist will place your breast on a clear plastic plate. Another plate will firmly press your breast from above. The plates will flatten the breast, holding it still while the X-ray is being taken. You will feel some pressure. The other breast will be X-rayed in the same way. The steps are then repeated to make a side view of each breast. You will then wait while the technologist checks the four X-rays to make sure the pictures do not need to be re-done. Keep in mind that the technologist cannot tell you the results of your mammogram.

What does having a mammogram feel like?

Having a mammogram is uncomfortable for most women. Some women find it painful. A mammogram takes only a few moments, though, and the discomfort is over soon. What you feel depends on the skill of the technologist, the size of your breasts, and how much they need to be pressed. Your breasts may be more sensitive if you are about to get or have your period.

To read more about this topic, from this and related documents, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication Understanding Mammograms.

 

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