How to Prepare for Your First Mammogram

Mammogram machine.

I turned the big 4-0 last year. After my annual GYN exam, my doctor suggested that I schedule my first mammogram. Yikes! I hate going to the doctor, but I’m all about preventative care. So I went home and did some research.

I was surprised to find out that the medical community is divided on the guidelines for mammograms.

Be informed. Do your research and have a conversation with your healthcare provider.

Womens Health word cloud

My insurance company covers mammograms for women ages 40 and over. So I went ahead and scheduled the screening. Here are a few things you should know before your first mammogram.

Before the Mammogram

  • Schedule your exam one week after your period because your breasts are less likely to be tender.
  • Don’t wear a dress. You will have to disrobe and put on a hip-length gown that opens in the front. Leave that pretty dress at home and wear a two-piece outfit.
Mammogram hip-length gown
  • Get a morning appointment. Why? Well, you can’t wear deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder on the day of the screening. These products may contain substances that may look like a tumor on the x-ray.
  • Ask if Tomosynthesis, 3-D mammogram, is an option. Because this type of mammogram has fewer false-positives. And no one has time to go through a second round of breast squishing and squeezing.
  • The screening will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Plan accordingly.
  • Choose a facility accredited by the American College of Radiology and certified by the FDA. These facilities adhere to the highest standards for technicians and doctors who interpret the mammograms.
  • Consider taking over-the-counter pain medicine if you have a low tolerance for pain.

During the Mammogram

The technician will explain the entire process to you. When it’s time to start, you will untie the hip length gown and stand in front of the machine.

The technician will put one breast on the platform. Then will position your body so it doesn’t obstruct the image. The technician will lower the top plate to compress flatten your breast like a pancake. This is done to spread out the breast tissue.

mammography machine breast compression

You will be asked to stand still and hold your breath for a few seconds while the technician takes the image. The technician will take a minimum of two images per breast.

After the Mammogram

The technician will review the images. At this point you may want to say a prayer that the images are adequate. You will have to repeat part of the test if any of the images are inadequate.

The technician will let you know when you can expect to receive your results. She may also tell you that many women receive a false-positive and not to worry. You will just need to schedule an appointment for additional screening.

The images will be sent to a radiologist who will interpret the images and send a written report to your doctor.

Results

The report will include your results and breast density. Knowing your breast density is important because dense breast tissue increases your risk of getting breast cancer. It also increases the chance of a false-negative because dense breast tissue makes it hard to spot a cancerous lump.

I received my results two weeks later. My results were normal and my breasts are heterogeneously dense. This means that approximately 51 to 75% of my breast tissue is dense.

Breast Denisty Chart

Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience. The over-the-counter pain medicine helped and I didn’t feel any pain during or after the procedure.

Wearing Hip Length Gown for First Mammogram

How to prepare for your First Mammogram. Mammogram machine.

4 Comments

  1. May 28, 2019 / 1:15 pm

    I really need to get on this. It’s been quite a while. I never thought that I had anything to worry about, but then my mother was diagnosed with Metastatic breast cancer last June. I lost her in Jan. Making my appointment today! Thanks!

    • Jeanell
      Author
      May 30, 2019 / 10:28 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. I’m glad that you are making an appointment. Sending prayers your way that the results are normal.

  2. May 28, 2019 / 10:24 am

    My breast cancer was diagnosed by my yearly mammogram. I was only a few months past 12 months from my previous clean exam and the mammogram showed I had text book breast cancer! Obviously I am a big big advocate of yearly mammograms. Take a couple of Advils and get it done every year after age 40. If 3D is available go for that. If an Ultra Sound is recommended go for it. Preventative care takes little time in the scheme of things!!!

    • Jeanell
      Author
      May 28, 2019 / 12:35 pm

      Thank you for reiterating the suggestions in this post. Your voice, as a survivor, adds weight to the importance of preventative care. ❤️

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