What Is a Mammogram?

March 21, 2017

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It can find changes in the breast-such as cysts or cancer--when a lump is too small for you or your doctor to feel. Some women put off getting a mammogram because they think it will be painful, harmful or costly. But this screening is safe, quick and effective. And it could save your life.

Why should I have a mammogram?

Your risk for breast cancer increases as you get older, so you need to be on a regular schedule for mammograms. Generally, having regular mammograms helps your doctor spot any breast changes or other breast problems such as breast cancer.

How is a mammogram performed?

A mammogram is similar to other X-ray exams. You will need to undress from the waist up. A technologist will position your breast between two plates. Each of your breasts will be compressed, which helps provide the most complete X-ray image. Usually, two X-rays of each breast, are taken a top view and a side view,.

For best results, on the morning of your test, wash your breasts and underarms, but don't use deodorant, powder, or perfume. 

How often should I have a mammogram?

The benefits and limitations of mammography vary based on factors like age and personal risk. Experts have different recommendations for mammography. Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening every two years for women ages 50 to 74. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screening for all women ages 40 and older. Talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors before making a decision about when to start getting mammograms or how often to get them.

Women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer should seek expert medical advice about whether they should begin mammograms at an earlier age and how often to have a screening mammogram.



March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN,Joy FincannonJoy Fincannon RN MN,Lambert, J.G. M.D.