Join Our eNewsletter!
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive encouraging advice to help you lead a healthy lifestyle.
Your First Mammogram: What to Expect
By Tasneem Paliwala Yakoob, MD
It's time for your first mammogram, which might be intimidating if you don't know what to expect. Talking to other women who’ve had a breast screening may be helpful, but everyone's experience can be different for a variety of reasons.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your first screening:
Come dressed for the occasion. You’ll be asked to undress to the waist and will be given a gown to wear. Most patients prefer to wear slacks or a skirt with a shirt or top that allows them to easily remove their blouse and bra before putting on the gown. Dresses and jumpsuits, on the other hand, usually need to be removed completely.
Don’t apply underarm deodorant, perfume, or lotion before your mammogram. Many women use some form of antiperspirant or deodorant, lotion, or perfume as part of their daily routine, but these products can compromise your mammogram. If you feel you must wear deodorant, you’ll be asked to remove it before your test, and the technologist will provide a deodorant removal wipe for that purpose. Your technologist isn’t concerned with the absence of deodorant but is focused on getting the best images possible. After the test, you may apply or re-apply deodorant. Deodorant wipes are typically available for reapplication.
You’ll be asked to complete a questionnaire. These questions are important, and the answers you provide may help the radiologist when he or she reviews your mammogram.
Patients may find mammograms to be uncomfortable, but not unbearable. If you know that your breasts are particularly sensitive during certain times of the month, take that into consideration when selecting your appointment. Breasts are composed of a combination of fatty tissue, glandular tissue, and connective tissue. Compression is used to even out the thickness of the breast, which helps differentiate between structures within the breast and reduces the amount of radiation necessary to get a good image. The technologist will try to minimize the amount of time the test takes.
What’s the Difference Between a 2D and 3D Mammogram?
The process during a 2D mammogram is similar to that of a 3D mammogram. Both types use low-dose X-ray to examine the breast and release the same amount of radiation. In both cases, the mammograph technician places your breast on a compression plate and a second plate flattens your breast tissue to create uniform thickness.
During a 2D mammogram, the imaging machine takes pictures of each breast from the front and side to create a single image of each breast that shows areas of overlapping breast tissue. For most women, a 2D mammogram is sufficient for a thorough, accurate breast cancer screening.
During a 3D mammogram, pictures of each breast are taken from different angles, showing each layer of breast tissue. The images are then put together by a computer to create 3D views of the breast. The radiologist can then view individual layers to see any small abnormalities that could be a sign of breast cancer. This type of mammogram is especially beneficial to women with dense breast tissue.
The two types of mammograms show results in a slightly different way, but the process for preparing for both types is the same.