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During a mammogram, each of your breasts is pressed between two plastic plates and an X-ray is taken. Later, a doctor will look at the X-ray and give you the results.

How is a mammogram done?

When you get a mammogram, you’ll take off your shirt and bra and a technician will give you a wrap or cover-up. You’ll stand in front of a special X-ray machine. One at a time, you’ll put each breast on a plastic platform, and the technician will lower a plastic plate that presses down on your breast.

Flattening out your breast helps spread out the tissue so it’s easier to find tumors or other signs of breast cancer. Having your breasts pressed down can be uncomfortable or even painful, but that part of the mammogram only last a few seconds. Your breasts may be sore after the mammogram. The whole process should take about 15 minutes.

After a screening mammogram, the technician will look at your X-rays to make sure they don’t need to be retaken. Technicians don’t examine the X-ray for signs of cancer — a doctor called a radiologist will do that after your appointment is over. A radiologist might be present during a diagnostic mammogram.

What happens after a mammogram?

A radiologist will read your mammogram results. The time it takes to get results varies. You can ask how long it takes to get results when you get your mammogram. If you haven't heard anything in about a month, give your doctor a call.

What if I have an abnormal mammogram?

If you find out that your mammogram results are abnormal, you’ll need to get some follow-up tests. Try not to panic — an abnormal result doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. In fact, less than 1 in 10 people called back after an abnormal mammogram have breast cancer. It just means that more tests are needed to understand if anything is going on. Your doctor may recommend

  • biopsy — a small amount of tissue is removed from your breast and analyzed to see if there are any cancer cells

  • core-needle biopsy — a nonsurgical procedure where tissue is removed using a hollow needle

  • ultrasound — sound waves are used to find lumps

  • diagnostic mammogram — a type of mammogram that focuses on problem areas

Where can I get a mammogram or learn more about them?

Ask your doctor or your local Planned Parenthood health center where you can get a mammogram near you. You can learn more about mammograms and breast cancer from the American Cancer Society or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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