Fairfax Radiology Centers

What to Expect at Your First Mammogram

Portrait of a smiling Caucasian woman with long brown hair, wearing a gray sleeveless dress. She is facing to the right and looking at the camera. A circular green outline highlights an X-ray image of a breast scan superimposed over her torso area, indicating a focus on breast health.

What to Expect at Your First Mammogram

For many women, the idea of their first mammogram can be intimidating. Understanding what to expect can help alleviate some of the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding this important annual screening exam. 

Why Do I Need a Mammogram?

Mammograms are X-ray images of the breast that are used to detect early signs of breast cancer, often before symptoms are noticeable. They are an essential tool in the early detection and prevention of breast cancer, which can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

What is a 3D Mammogram?

During 2D Digital Mammography, a single image of the breast is created, resulting in overlapping breast tissue. There are times when this overlapping tissue can hide a suspicious finding, resulting in delayed treatment or could mimic a suspicious finding, resulting in a callback for additional exams. 3D Mammography (Breast Tomosynthesis/3D) creates multiple thin images of the breast, therefore reducing the challenge that comes with overlapping breast tissue. During Breast Tomosynthesis/3D, multiple images of each breast are taken from various angles during one sweeping motion of the mechanical arm, which takes only seconds longer than a traditional 2D Digital Mammogram.

How Can I Prepare for My Mammogram Appointment?

It's recommended to avoid using deodorant, perfume, or lotion on your chest and underarm area on the day of your mammogram, as these products can interfere with the accuracy of the mammogram images. There are no dietary restrictions for a mammogram, so you can eat and drink as you normally would the night before and the day of your appointment.

What Should I Wear for My Mammogram Appointment?

Opt for comfortable clothing that is easy to remove. Many women find that wearing a two-piece outfit, such as a top and bottoms, makes the process more convenient. Avoid wearing dresses or one-piece outfits, as you will need to undress from the waist up for the exam. You will be provided with a dressing gown that will open in the front.

What Can I Expect During the Mammogram?

During the mammogram, you will be positioned in front of the machine. A technologist will position your breast on a flat surface and gently compress it with a clear plastic paddle to spread out the breast tissue. While this compression can feel uncomfortable, it only lasts for a few seconds and is necessary to obtain clear and accurate images.

What if I Experience Discomfort During my Mammogram?

If you experience any discomfort during the procedure, don’t hesitate to communicate with the technologist. They can adjust the positioning or compression to make you more comfortable. Additionally, if you have any concerns or questions about your mammogram, don’t hesitate to voice them beforehand.

What Happens After my Mammogram?

You will receive your results within a few days to a week. If your results are normal, you will return for regular mammograms every year. If there are any abnormalities detected, further testing or follow-up appointments may be necessary.

Remember, early detection saves lives. Schedule your mammogram today and take the first step towards prioritizing your breast health.

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