Why do I need mammograms?
Mammograms can be used to look for breast cancer, either as a screening test in women without symptoms or in women who have symptoms that might be from cancer. A mammogram can often find or detect breast cancer early, when it’s small and even before a lump can be felt. This is when it’s likely to be easiest to treat.
How to prepare for your mammogram
- If you have a choice, go to a facility that specializes in mammograms and does many mammograms a day.
- Try to go to the same facility every time so that your mammograms can easily be compared from year to year.
- If you’re going to a facility for the first time, bring a list of the places and dates of mammograms, biopsies, or any other breast procedures you’ve had before.
- If you’ve had mammograms at another facility, try to get those records to bring with you to the new facility (or have them sent there) so the old pictures can be compared to the new ones.
- Schedule your mammogram for when your breasts aren't likely to be tender or swollen, to help reduce discomfort and get good pictures. Try to avoid the week just before your period.
- On the day of the exam, don’t apply deodorant, antiperspirant, powders, lotions, creams, or perfumes under your arms, or on or under your breasts. Some of these contain substances that can show up on the x-ray as white spots. If you’re not going home after your exam, you might want to take your deodorant or antiperspirant with you to put on after your exam. (Many centers will have cleaning and deodorant wipes to help you wipe off the deodorant and then replace it after the exam.)
- You might find it easier to wear a skirt or pants, so that you’ll only need to remove your top and bra for the mammogram.
- Discuss any recent changes or problems in your breasts with your health care provider before getting the mammogram. (If you have symptoms, you may need a diagnostic mammogram so special images can be taken of the area of concern.)
- Make sure your provider is aware of any part of your medical history that could affect your breast cancer risk—such as surgery, hormone use, breast cancer in your family, or if you’ve had breast cancer before.