In general, the current recommendations suggest starting annual screening mammograms at age 40.
If you have a family history of breast cancer or another risk factor, talk to your healthcare provider to see if you may need to begin screening earlier.
This type of mammogram is primarily used if you have no breast condition symptoms, no history of breast cancer or no prior lumpectomies. NHRMC uses 3D mammography for screening, which can detect any issues such as small lumps before they can ever be felt by you or your doctor during a breast exam.
Your healthcare provider may order a diagnostic mammogram if there are changes in your breast tissue on a screening mammogram, or if you have had a previous breast cancer diagnosis. This type of mammogram can provide a more detailed view of the breast tissue. If you have noticed any lumps, drainage, soreness or sensitivity in your breasts talk to your healthcare provider about having a diagnostic mammogram.
- Do not use deodorant, powder, or lotion under your arms or on your breast before your mammogram
- Wear a blouse or top that is easy to remove
- Be prepared to answer questions about your medical history
- Inform your technologists if you have breast implants
Knowing what to expect during your mammogram visit can help you feel more relaxed.
Once you check in for your appointment and are called back for your mammogram, your exam will be performed by a female registered mammography technologist. Your technologist will take images of your breasts from several angles in a private mammography suite. The process takes about 10 minutes.
During your mammogram, your breasts are placed on a flat surface and will be gently but firmly compressed between the X-ray detector and a plastic paddle. The compression spreads out your breast tissue to provide us with the best image. The compression may cause some discomfort, but it doesn’t last long. If you are very uncomfortable, the technologist can reposition you.
If you are 40 or older, you do not need a referral to schedule a screening mammogram.
If you need a diagnostic mammogram, you will need to have a referral from your healthcare provider.
Your images will be analyzed by a radiologist and compared against any previous mammograms. You will receive a letter with your results in the mail within 7 to 10 business days. If you have NHRMC MyChart, your results will appear in your account sooner.
When you get your mammogram results, you will receive information about your breast density. Breast density tells you the kind of breast tissue that is seen in your mammogram images and is measured in four categories.
Learn more about breast density.
You may be asked to come back for more images if the radiologist wants to check an area. This does not mean you have breast cancer. It could mean you have a breast cyst or benign calcification, or that your breast density has changed.
An ultrasound exam is used with a mammogram for patients 30 and older who may have a suspicious lump.
The ultrasound will help determine if the mammogram is showing a cystic or solid mass.
For women younger than 30, an ultrasound exam is required to evaluate areas of concern instead of a mammogram unless the radiologist decides it’s necessary to receive a mammogram.
You may have temporary swelling of your lymph nodes with any vaccine. This swelling may distort your screening mammogram results.
If you are getting your COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage you to schedule your screening mammogram six weeks after your second COVID-19 vaccine dose to ensure accurate results.
However, if you or your healthcare provider have a breast-related concern, do not delay getting your diagnostic exam.