Healthy Living

What to Expect at a Mammogram: A Comprehensive Guide

Oct. 11, 2023

Regular health screenings are an essential part of maintaining our well-being. Mammograms, the gold standard screening for breast cancer, are particularly important for women.

If you're preparing for your first mammogram or are curious about the procedure, this guide will help you understand what to expect during the process.

Why Mammograms Matter

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide—about 30% of all newly diagnosed cancers in women each year are breast cancer. Catching it early greatly improves the chances of successful treatment and survival. When caught in its earliest, localized stages, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%.

Generally recommended for women ages 40 and older, mammograms play a crucial role in early detection by identifying abnormalities in breast tissue, including small lumps that may not be felt during a physical examination.

“Every woman is at risk for breast cancer. Our goal is to find it before you feel it. Annual mammogram screenings help us do this,” says Avice M. O'Connell, MD, MA, a breast imaging expert at UR Medicine.

The Mammogram Procedure

  1. The X-ray machine: During the mammogram, you will stand in front of an X-ray machine specifically designed for breast imaging. The technologist will position your breast on a special platform, and then lower a plastic plate to compress the breast tissue. This compression is necessary to obtain clear images and minimize radiation exposure.
  2. Taking the X-rays: The technologist will take X-rays from different angles, capturing two images of each breast separately. You'll need to hold your breath for a few seconds while the X-ray is taken.
  3. How it feels: The compression of the breast can cause discomfort or even mild pain for some women, but it's temporary and essential for obtaining accurate images.
  4. Duration: The entire mammogram procedure usually takes about 20 minutes.

After the Mammogram

  1. Results: The radiologist will analyze the images and send a report to your healthcare provider in one to two weeks. If any abnormalities are found, you'll likely be called back for further tests, including additional mammogram views or an ultrasound.
  2. Routine follow-ups: Regular annual mammograms, as recommended by your healthcare provider, will ensure that any changes in breast tissue are detected early.

Remember that every woman's experience is different, but knowing what to expect can help ease any anxiety about the process.

Prioritize your breast health by scheduling regular mammograms and maintaining open communication with your healthcare provider. It's a proactive step towards ensuring your well-being and enjoying a healthy life.

Advances in Breast Imaging

UR Medicine offers the most advanced imaging technology in a calming, comfortable environment. Schedule your mammogram today.

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