How To Prepare for a Mammogram & What to Expect

A woman prepares for a mamogram. She is wearing a hospital gown and is being assisted by a woman nurse wearing purple scrubs

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, the time of year when your social feeds fill with gentle nudges to schedule your breast exams and mammograms. 

If you’ve never had a mammogram before and the thought of getting one has you feeling a bit uneasy, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Studies show that many women avoid mammograms for similar reasons, such as being afraid of test results, believing they are too young or not at risk, or being afraid of the actual mammogram process. 

In this article we aim to help you prepare for a mammogram – demystify the process, share what to expect at your appointment, debunk myths, and help reduce hesitations and fear around the process.

What Is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is a specific type of X-ray for your breast tissue. It’s used to detect early signs of breast cancer, often before you or your doctor can even feel a lump. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so this is a screening you definitely want to keep on your radar.

The Pre-Appointment Checklist

Here are a few things to prepare you for your mammogram appointment:

  1. Schedule Wisely: Try to schedule your mammogram for a time when your breasts are less likely to be tender. The week after your period is usually a good choice.
  2. Skip the Deodorant: On the day of your appointment, avoid using deodorant, antiperspirant, or lotions on your chest area. These products can show up on the X-ray and interfere with the images.
  3. Dress Comfortably: Wear a two-piece outfit so you can easily undress from the waist up. You’ll be given a gown to wear during the procedure.
  4. Bring Your ID and Prior Films: If you’ve had previous mammograms at different facilities, bring those images with you. It helps the radiologist compare old and new images for any changes.

The Mammogram Itself: Step by Step

Okay, you’ve arrived at your appointment, and you’re in your snazzy gown. Now what? Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Breast Flattening: You’ll stand in front of the mammogram machine, and the technician will position your breast on a flat surface. Another plate will press gently on top to flatten the breast tissue. A common myth and reason why many women avoid mammograms is the belief that this hurts. While it may be uncomfortable, we can assure you it will not be painful.
  2. Multiple Views: Each breast will be imaged from different angles, typically from the top and side. The technician will take two images of each breast, one from the top and one from the side.
  3. Hold Still: It’s essential to stay as still as possible during the few seconds the X-ray is taken. The technician may ask you to hold your breath briefly to minimize any blurriness in the images.
  4. Repeat for the Other Side: Once they’re done with one side, they’ll move on to the other. It’s a quick process, and you’ll be out of there before you know it.

What Happens Next?

After your mammogram, you can put your regular clothes back on and go about your day. The images will be reviewed by a radiologist, who will look for any abnormalities. You’ll usually receive the results within a few weeks.

Remember, if they find something unusual, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s cancer. Many times, further tests like ultrasound or biopsy are needed to get a clearer picture.

​​Mental Health and Mammograms: Combating Nerves

It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit anxious before your mammogram, especially if it’s your first time. The prospect of the unknown can trigger nerves in the best of us. But here’s the deal: your mental health matters just as much as your physical health. 

So, here are a few ways to combat those pre-mammogram jitters:

  1. Lean on Support: Don’t hesitate to bring a friend or family member along for moral support. A familiar face in the waiting room can do wonders for calming your nerves.
  2. Breathing Techniques: Practice deep breathing exercises to help you relax before and during the procedure. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale through your mouth. It’s amazing how something as simple as breathing can ease anxiety.
  3. Distractions: Some imaging centers offer distractions like calming music or even a TV to watch during the procedure. Ask if these options are available to help take your mind off things.
  4. Talk to Your Technician: Let your technician know if you’re feeling particularly nervous. They’ve seen it all and can offer reassurance and guidance to make the process more comfortable for you.
  5. Remember the Why: Keep in mind that this mammogram is a crucial step in taking care of your health. Detecting breast cancer early can significantly improve your chances of successful treatment, so focus on the positive impact it can have on your life.

Copperstate and Mammograms

Getting a mammogram is a smart move for your health. While it may not be the most glamorous appointment on your calendar, it’s a crucial step in early breast cancer detection.

It’s a relatively quick and painless procedure that could save your life. If you’re due for one, go ahead and schedule it. And remember, Copperstate is here to support you every step of the way.

Our practice is recognized as one of the most progressive OB/Gyn groups in Tucson, Arizona. Our expert physicians offer mammograms and other services focused on early detection and breast health. Together, we can prioritize your well-being and make informed decisions for a healthier future. 

Are you a patient of Copperstate OB/Gyn? Access your patient portal here, or share your experience with us on Google.

Information in this blog post is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult a medical professional to discuss your individual medical situation.