What to Expect When You Get A Mammogram

Each year, over 40 million screening mammograms are performed in the United States as more people are recognizing the vital role they play in early detection. Diagnosing breast cancer before it has progressed or spread provides a higher success rate for many treatments. If you have yet to experience a mammogram screening, you may be wondering what the process entails. In this article, we will discuss what to expect when you get a mammogram. 

What is a mammogram?

Essentially, a mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Radiologists use mammograms to look for early signs of breast cancer, such as masses or abnormalities, through screening. Mammograms are the most effective way of detecting breast cancer early, often before the disease presents any signs or symptoms. 

What happens during a mammogram?

During a mammogram, you will be asked to stand in front of an X-ray machine. A radiologic technologist will place your breast on a clear plastic plate, then another plate will press down on your breast to flatten and hold it still while the X-ray is being taken. These steps are then repeated to take pictures of the breasts from different angles. 

Types of Mammograms

There are three main types of mammograms. 

  • Traditional mammograms are the most common type of mammogram, which create images using a low-strength X-ray.  These can be either screening mammograms or diagnostic mammograms, meaning they have been requested after another test or if a lump was found. 
  • Digital mammography or full-field mammography allows radiologists to create digital images of the breast that can be seen on a computer. One of the benefits of digital mammograms is being able to receive the images more quickly. 
  • 3-D Mammograms are the most advanced type of mammograms. This technology allows the breast to be viewed in a series of layers that create a full 3-D image, making it easier for radiologists to discover or identify issues in the breast. 

How often do I need a mammogram?

Women or men who are considered to have a normal risk of developing breast cancer should start getting annual mammograms between ages 40 to 45. Those who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer should begin screening at an earlier age and likely more often, at their doctor’s discretion. Speak with your doctor about whether you might be at a high risk of developing breast cancer.

Do mammograms hurt?

Many people find mammograms uncomfortable, while others may experience a bit of pain during them. Luckily, the mammogram itself only takes a few moments, so the pain or discomfort shouldn’t last for long. 

Speak with your doctor about the right time for you to start getting mammograms. If you need a mammogram in Manhattan, call the board-certified radiologists at Rosetta Radiology.