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10 things to know before your mammogram

Last Modified: October 20, 2021



The Mammography Team at Parkview Cancer Institute shares some tips to make your routine and diagnostic mammograms as comfortable as possible. Part of that comfort comes from being armed with the right information. Here is a collection of quick facts the team wants you to know before you come in for your next mammogram.

There are two types of mammograms. The first type is a screening mammogram, which is an annual exam that is a routine check. These are done when there are no known breast issues. The second is a diagnostic mammogram, which is done if there is an area of concern or breast symptom. If you have a breast issue, always let the facility and your doctor know ahead of time so they can order the correct exam.

Mammograms should not hurt.  Most patients say it is just a feeling of pressure and not pain. If you have very sensitive breasts, let your mammographer know; there are techniques she can use to ensure a more comfortable exam. 

Compression is necessary.  With compression, the breast tissue is spread out evenly and allows the radiologist (the doctor that reads the X-rays) to see through the tissue. Without compression, the details and areas of concern would not be as visible.

The time you are in compression is not long.  You are only compressed for a few seconds and the machine automatically releases the compression paddle the moment the image is taken.

Don’t wear deodorant the day of your mammogram.  Deodorant can show as artifacts on the image. If you wear deodorant the day of your mammogram, let the mammographer know. She will provide wipes for you to remove it before the exam. 

Don’t wear a dress or jumpsuit.  We recommend wearing a two-piece outfit to your mammogram appointment. You will only need to remove your clothing from the waist up and be given a gown. If you do wear a one-piece, you will be given a longer gown, but you may be more comfortable wearing your own clothes from the waist down.

You may be asked to remove glasses and jewelry.  Most jewelry is okay to wear during a mammogram. The mammographer will have you move any pendants on necklaces away from the chest while positioning. Small earrings and accessories are usually fine. You could be asked to remove large dangling earrings as they could get in the image. We typically ask that glasses be removed.

Longer hair can get in the way of the image.  Any hair that hangs over the chest can accidentally get into the image. If that happens, it will require a repeat. Your mammographer will try to ensure that mid-length to long hair is pushed behind your back. If you tie your hair back, that can ensure the hair doesn’t slip into the image.

Annual screening mammograms should be spaced an entire year apart.  Some insurance carriers will not pay for the screening mammogram if it has not been 365 days since the previous exam. This does not apply when someone needs a diagnostic mammogram, meaning they have a current breast issue. Anytime someone has a breast issue, they should be seen regardless of the timeframe of their previous mammogram.

Let your mammographer know if you have moles or skin tags on the breast.  She may put a small sticker with a marker on the area that lets the radiologist know the area is not in the breast tissue, but on the skin. The mammographer will ask if there are any moles present.  Depending on the size and prominence, it may need to be marked.


You can learn more about mammograms, including how to schedule your next screening, by visiting us here.

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