How to prepare for your mammogram

  • Schedule your exam for a time when your breasts are less likely to be tender. If you haven’t gone through menopause, scheduling the week after your menstrual period would be more ideal. Your breasts are most likely to be tender the week before and the week of your period.
  • Bring your prior mammogram images. If you are new to WVU Medicine for your mammograms, request to have any prior mammograms placed on a CD, and bring your disc and prior reports with you to your appointment. Doing this allows the radiologist to compare past mammograms with your new images and be aware of any prior areas of question or concern.
  • Don’t use deodorant before your mammogram. Avoid using deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams, or perfumes under your arms or on your breasts. Metallic particles in powders and deodorants could be visible on your mammogram and cause confusion.
  • Consider an over-the-counter pain medication if you feel that mammograms are uncomfortable. Taking an over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol or ibuprofen, about an hour before your mammogram might ease the discomfort of the test.

What to expect

During the test: You will be given a gown and asked to remove deodorant and clothing from the waist up. To make this easier, consider wearing a two-piece outfit that day.

For the procedure itself, you stand in front of the mammography machine, and the technologist will place one of your breasts on a platform. She will then raise or lower the platform to match your height. The technologist helps you position your head, arms, and torso to allow a clear and unobstructed view of your breast tissue. Your breast is gradually compressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate. Pressure is applied for a few seconds to spread the breast tissue out. The compression isn’t harmful, but you may find it uncomfortable or even painful. If you experience too much discomfort, let the technologist know.

Your breast must be compressed to even out its thickness. Compression minimizes the dose of radiation needed to penetrate the tissue and holds your breast still to decrease blurring from movement. During the brief x-ray exposure, you’ll be asked to remain still, and compression will automatically release once the exposure is complete.

After images are made of both your breasts, the technologist will check the quality of the images. If the views are inadequate for technical reasons, such as motion or the need to include more breast tissue than what is seen, you may have to repeat part of the test.
After the test: If you are being seen for a yearly routine screening mammogram, you are free to leave once your imaging is complete. In the United States, federal law requires mammogram facilities to notify you of your results within 30 days, but you can usually expect to receive your results sooner. Your result letter will be mailed to you the day after your exam is read by the radiologist.

If the radiologist notes any areas of question or concern on your screening mammogram, further testing will be recommended, and we will contact you for scheduling. This can include additional mammograms, known as spot compression or magnification views, as well as ultrasound imaging. A biopsy may also be recommended to remove a sample of breast tissue for laboratory testing. Results from a biopsy take approximately 5-7 business days to be ready.

If you are being seen for diagnostic imaging, you can expect to wait while your images are reviewed in case further testing is needed. You will receive your results the same day.