A mammogram is a special type of X-ray that creates images of your breast tissue. It allows your gynecologist to detect abnormal cell growth as many as three years before breast cancer would likely be detected through an in-office or at-home breast exam.
Mammography is an essential part of every woman’s health care. Advancements in technology and research have vastly improved breast cancer treatment options, and mammograms allow you to get started treating breast cancer as early as possible.
Generally, women need to begin having mammograms around the age of 45. Annual mammograms are recommended by the American Cancer Society until you reach the age of 54. At that point, you may be able to drop down to having mammograms every other year.
In some cases, women need to begin having mammograms earlier. If you or your gynecologist detect a lump or other tissue abnormality during a standard breast exam, mammography can help determine if more in-depth cancer screening is necessary.
The process of having a mammogram is straightforward. You’ll remove your bra and wear a gown to keep you warm during the process.
You begin by standing in front of the mammogram device. Your breast is placed on a plastic plate while another plate lowers from above. Compressing your breast tissue is necessary to obtain the clearest possible image.
The compression phase of the process can be uncomfortable but is brief. The process is repeated to obtain a side view.
If you’re concerned about discomfort or pain during the procedure, it may make sense to schedule your visit a week or more after your period, as your breasts can be more sensitive during menstruation.
Booking a mammogram is as simple as a quick phone call or a few moments on the online scheduling page. You’ll usually receive your results within a few weeks. A normal result means you don’t need to take any other action until your next exam. If your results are abnormal, you’ll learn which diagnostic steps are needed.