Mammography is diagnostic imaging (x-ray) of the breasts. Currently, it is considered the best screening method for the detection of abnormalities within the breast.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older have annual screening mammograms in order to detect breast cancer even when no symptoms are present.
Screening mammography looks for unsuspected changes in the breast tissue. Diagnostic mammography is utilized when a patient has consulted with her doctor or health care provider, and there is a known change that needs to be investigated.
Regular breast examinations by a health care provider along with proper breast self-examinations also aid in early detection of breast cancer. Your health care provider will be able to give you additional details about these exams, but a general idea of what to expect is provided below.
You should not use deodorant or powder under your arms before having a mammogram.
You should wear a blouse or top that is easy to remove for the exam.
You will be asked to complete a series of questions about your medical history and breast health.
You will also need to notify your technologist if you have breast implants.
Mammography is considered a low-level diagnostic imaging (x-ray) exam. Your breasts will be gently but firmly compressed as necessary in order to obtain a clear picture. Breast compression is not dangerous, but can be uncomfortable for some patients. The discomfort is usually brief. You may notice temporary discoloration of the skin after your mammogram due to the compression. This should not be of concern.
When your exam is complete, you may leave and resume regular activities. A radiologist will review your exam images and report the findings to your health care provider. Also, a result letter (in lay terms) will be mailed to you.