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This Won’t Hurt a Bit

This Won’t Hurt a Bit

What you need to know about having a mammogram.

Few words put a woman on edge like the word mammogram. Why? Many women worry about having a mammogram performed because they’re afraid of hearing the words, “You have breast cancer.” Other women think they are unnecessary and embarrassing, especially if they haven’t found any lumps on their own. Regardless of your feelings toward mammograms, it’s a necessary diagnostic tool for women's breast health that isn’t as bad as you might think. Plus, a little preparation and knowledge will go a long way toward ensuring your comfort level during what needs to be a yearly ritual.

How to prepare for your mammogram

  • The best time to schedule your mammogram is a week or so after your period when your breasts are less tender, in order to minimize discomfort.
  • If you’re able to, bring your previous mammogram, or a list of where and when you’ve had previous mammograms, with you to your appointment.
  • The morning of your exam, make sure not to wear talcum powder, deodorant, lotion or perfume under your arms or on your breasts. These substances can leave behind residue and make your mammogram harder to interpret.
  • If you can, wear a two-piece outfit so you only have to remove your top and bra for the examination. A blouse that buttons in the front is best because it can be easily removed. If you wear a necklace on the day of your exam, it should be one that can be easily removed, as your technician may ask you to take it off.
  • To minimize discomfort, you may want to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, at least 30 minutes before your appointment.
  • If you’re experiencing any breast symptoms or problems, you need to describe these to the technician.
  • Be prepared to discuss any pertinent history with your technician, such as prior surgeries and family or personal history of breast cancer.  Kathy Lutter, MD, LLC, Obstetrics/Gynecology says that you should also let your technician know about any hormones you might be taking.


What happens during a mammogram?

When you arrive for your appointment, you will be asked to undress from the waist up and remove your bra. You will probably be given a paper gown and asked to remove any jewelry.

During the exam, your technician will position you in front of the x-ray machine. Your breast will be placed on a special cassette and gently compressed with a paddle. The paddle is typically made of Plexiglas, and it flattens the breast so the maximum amount of tissue can be imaged and examined. Many women say this doesn’t hurt, but they do agree that it can be uncomfortable. Your technician will then ask you to hold your breath and hold still while he or she makes the x-ray picture.

After all of the necessary views are taken, you will be asked to get dressed and wait while the x-ray images are reviewed. Once the films have been reviewed, you’ll be on your way.

While mammograms aren’t the most comfortable experience, they’re the first step in taking charge of your breast health. If you haven’t already had your yearly mammogram, schedule your appointment today