What Happens During a Mammogram?
When you go for a mammogram, you will be asked to undress from the waist up. A cover-up or wrap will be provided for you.
A technician will be present to position your breasts and take the x-rays. Most technicians are women. But if you have a preference, ask if it is possible to have a female or male technician when you make your appointment.
Only you and the technician will be in the exam room. You will stand in front of a special x-ray machine. One at a time, each breast will be placed onto a plastic platform and then pressed by another plastic plate as the x-rays are taken.
You will feel some pressure. Pressing your breast in this way helps spread out the breast tissue and prevents movement. It also helps get a sharper image of the breast tissue.
These steps are then repeated to get a side view of each breast.
The compression for each breast only lasts a few seconds — the overall procedure takes about 15 minutes. Most women feel uncomfortable when their breasts are being pressed. And some women find it painful. But the discomfort only lasts a few seconds each time. Some women may feel sore after a mammogram.
Next, your x-rays are examined to make sure the pictures don't need to be retaken. At this point the technician is only making sure the pictures are sharp. The technician is not looking for results.
There are things you can do to make a mammogram more comfortable and to get the clearest x-ray:
- If possible, schedule your mammogram after your period. Your breasts may be tender and swollen in the week before and during your period. Avoid getting a mammogram during these times.
- Do not wear deodorant, perfume, or powder the day of your mammogram. They will show up on your x-rays as white spots.
- You are usually asked to undress from the waist up for a mammogram. Some women avoid wearing dresses on the day of mammogram. This way they may remain clothed from the waist down.
- If you have breast implants, tell the person on the phone when you make your appointment.