What to Expect at Your First Mammogram

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and early diagnosis is the most effective tool for breast cancer survival. In addition to regular self-breast exams and annual physician exams, a mammogram screening is an important part of your breast health.

Your primary care doctor may suggest you have a mammogram screening when:

  • You are over 40 years old
  • You have certain risk factors, such as a family history of early breast cancer

Perhaps you've talked to other women about their mammogram experience. Depending on what you heard, or if you have no prior information at all, you may be concerned about having your first mammogram. Knowing what to expect can help put your mind at ease. Here are the top 5 things you should know before your first mammogram:

  1. It doesn't take very long. You can expect the actual mammogram screening to take less than 20 minutes. In most cases, four images are take of each breast and the breast is only compressed for about 10 to 15 seconds per image.

  2. It's best not to wear a dress. You will be asked to undress from the waist up for your mammogram screening, so a two-piece outfit is easiest. 

  3. Clean skin is best. In order to have the clearest possible reading for your mammogram, you should not wear any lotions, powder or deodorant to the screening. 

  4. The best time for a mammogram is the week after your period. A mammogram is not painful, but it may be uncomfortable. Your breast tissue will be more tender before and during your cycle, so scheduling a mammogram for afterward makes the most sense.

  5. Being asked to return for additional imaging does not mean you have cancer. If your mammogram shows any potential abnormalities, or if the image is unclear, you will be asked to come back for additional images. The majority of the time, there is nothing there, or the finding is a benign (non-cancerous) mass or cyst.

Remember: the main purpose of a mammogram is to detect breast cancer and the goal is to detect it at the earliest possible stage. Having your first mammogram is one of many ways you can safeguard your health and help ensure you enjoy a long and active life.

Learn more about breast health at The Christ Hospital. Make an appointment with one of our women's health experts. Schedule your mammogram by calling 513-585-2668 or schedule your screening mammogram appointment online.