Your First Mammogram: What to Expect

your first mammogram

It’s time for your first mammogram; congratulations on taking this important preventative health step!

While you may feel anxious or nervous before your first mammogram, the screening process is very important for your health maintenance and is quite simple. We spoke with Vilert Loving, MD, chief of breast imaging at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, about what to expect.

Q: What does a mammogram feel like? Does it hurt?

A: During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between two plastic plates. Compression is critical because it improves the quality of the image and allows better detection of cancer. Some women with sensitive breasts may notice discomfort, but this discomfort is almost always temporary and resolves after the test is complete. 

Q: What is the radiologist looking for in a mammogram? 

A: A mammogram can show signs of breast cancer, which could present as a growth in the breast tissue or calcium/mineral deposits. As you continue to get yearly mammograms, the radiologist will be able to compare any new growths or calcium/mineral deposits to previous mammograms.

Q: How long does the mammogram take?

A: The actual screening time is about 10-15 minutes, although you should expect to be at the imaging center for 30-60 minutes to allow time for registration paperwork and changing into a clinic gown. Screening offices try to make a comfortable experience so there are often refreshments, magazines or other reading materials available.

Q: Are there certain things I should or shouldn’t wear?

A: Avoid wearing deodorant, lotions, powders or perfumes/colognes, as these substances may interfere with the mammogram. If needed, the technologist can provide you with a cleansing wipe to remove your deodorant prior to the mammogram. Consider wearing a two-piece outfit as opposed to a one-piece, since you will be asked to undress from the waist up.

Q: How long will it take to get my results?

A: It can take up to 1-2 weeks to receive mammogram results. If you have access to the MyBanner Patient Portal, your results may be accessible sooner.

Q: What might next steps be after my mammogram, depending on my results?

A: If your mammogram results are normal, you should continue to undergo routine, annual screening mammograms. If your results are abnormal, your health care provider and/or the imaging center staff will ask you to return to the imaging center for more focused mammogram images and/or a breast ultrasound exam. These extra images help the radiologist determine next steps, if any, in the evaluation of the mammogram abnormality. In most cases, these extra images resolve the question and no additional evaluation is needed. However, in some cases, the radiologist may recommend a biopsy of the abnormality. In the case of a biopsy, the radiologist will discuss these recommendations with you and answer any questions that you might have.

Doing any health-related procedure for the first time can feel overwhelming. Banner professionals are knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated to making your experience positive. We know how important these screenings are will do everything we can to make you feel comfortable and answer your questions.

Ready to schedule your mammogram? Call (480) 256-6444 if you are in Arizona or (970) 810-3894 if you are in Northern Colorado.

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