Mammography uses X-rays to create images of the breast. These images are called mammograms.
Learn more about mammograms.
Learn about findings on a mammogram.
Mammograms can be done in:
Before the mammogram, you will undress from the waist up. So, it’s a good idea to wear a shirt you can remove easily.
Avoid using deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes, powders or lotions on your breasts and underarm areas on the day of the exam. Ingredients in these products can show up on a mammogram and make it harder to read.
Getting a screening mammogram takes about 15 minutes.
During the exam, each breast is pressed between 2 plates and an X-ray image is made. Two views of each breast are taken, one with the X-ray beam aimed from top to bottom and the other from side to side.
Sometimes, the pressure can be uncomfortable, but it only lasts for a few seconds. If you have concerns, talk with your health care provider about taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before the exam.
Your provider can also discuss other ways to help ease discomfort (or anxiety) during a mammogram. Before the exam, let your technologist know if you have any concerns or if you feel any discomfort during the exam.
Some centers may give you the results of your mammogram at the time of your screening. Otherwise, it may take up to 2 weeks to get your results.
If you don't get your results within 2 weeks, contact your health care provider or the mammography center.
Don’t assume the results were normal because you didn’t get a report. Follow-up to get your results.
If a finding is abnormal or the mammogram wasn't clear enough for the results to be read, you will be called back for more tests.
Follow-up may include another mammogram, a breast ultrasound or a breast MRI. In some cases, a biopsy may be needed.
The recall rate of a mammography center is the percent of women who are called back for more tests. Some centers may share their recall rate with you. This information may help you understand your chances of being called back.
It's not uncommon to be called back for an abnormal finding on a mammogram. Although there is no “gold standard” recall rate, in the U.S., about 10-13 percent of women are called back after a mammogram [15-16].
If you are called back, try not to panic or worry. Most abnormal findings are not breast cancer.
Learn about follow-up after an abnormal mammogram.
Mammography is a safe and effective screening tool for women who have breast implants. However, implants can make it harder to read a mammogram.
If you have breast implants, it's important to tell the technologist before your mammogram. The mammography machine must be adjusted to get the best image of the natural breast tissue.
Special positioning of the breast may also be needed. Four views of each breast will be taken (instead of the standard 2).
If you can, choose an imaging center with technologists and radiologists who are experienced in mammography for screening women with breast implants. When you call to make an appointment, ask about their experience imaging women with breast implants. If the imaging center doesn’t have staff with this expertise, try to find one that does.
Screening mammography isn't used in pregnant women because the radiation may harm the fetus. Also, younger women (under age 40) usually don’t get screening mammography.
Pregnant women may get a clinical breast exam as part of their prenatal care.
If a lump is found during the first trimester, tests such as breast ultrasound (rather than mammography) are used to check for breast cancer.
If a lump is found after the first trimester, a diagnostic mammogram may be given with a shield covering the abdomen to protect the fetus.
If you have any concerns about your breasts while you are pregnant (such as finding a lump or other change), see your health care provider.
Learn more about breast cancer during pregnancy.
While you are breastfeeding, the tissue in your breasts may appear dense on a mammogram, making it hard to read. So, it's best to wait until after you stop breastfeeding to get a routine screening mammogram.
Discuss the best timing to get a mammogram with your health care provider if you're due for screening.
If you have any concerns about your breasts while you are breastfeeding (such as finding a lump or other change), see your provider.
Some women with physical disabilities have trouble finding a mammography center that meets their needs. Partnering with a health care provider in your search may help things go more smoothly.
If access to mammography for disabled women is limited in your area, let your local medical centers know. This may help improve access for you and other women.
Learn more about women with physical disabilities and breast cancer screening.
What is Susan G. Komen® doing?
Susan G. Komen® and the American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD) have worked together to address and remove barriers to screening and treatment for women with disabilities. Komen and AAHD:
AAHD was awarded a two-year grant to continue their work to address barriers for women with disabilities in Washington, D.C. through our National Capital Region Community Grants Program. Primarily, this program supported women with disabilities living in Wards 2, 5, 7, and 8 in the District of Columbia. The project – Breast Cancer Awareness for Women with Disabilities - aimed to reduce breast cancer disparities for women with disabilities by targeting the community and health care providers in local mammography screening facilities. AAHD disseminated breast health educational materials, one-on-one education about breast health and conducted accessibility assessments at screening facilities to determine the structural barriers that prevent women with disabilities from receiving their mammogram.
Facts for Life: Women with Disabilities
Questions to Ask Your Doctor: Mammography