Your First Mammogram. What to Expect!
Congratulations, you’re 40, and it’s time to begin having your annual screening mammogram! It’s normal to be nervous and anxious about your first mammogram. Typically, patients tell us, “It was a lot easier than I thought it would be”. We hope to give you a glimpse into what it’s like to have a mammogram at Elizabeth Wende Breast Care (EWBC). If, after reading this, you still have a few questions feel free to contact our office. We are always happy to answer questions.
What to expect
All seven of our outpatient freestanding facilities (no need to walk through a hospital to find us) are conveniently located with plenty of free parking (and accessible by public transportation).
After you schedule your first appointment; you will fill out your health history on our EWBC patient portal (portal.ewbc.com). Our doctors pay close attention to your personal and family history so they can recommend the most appropriate breast care plan and health care services for you.
During Your Appointment
There will be no surprises during your visit with us. Our experienced staff will talk you through every step, so you’ll have a clear understanding of what’s happening. The benefit of having your mammogram at a specialized breast imaging center is we do the same thing each day and can help you through any situation. Each staff member has undergone training to be a supportive and knowledgeable resource for you during your visit.
You will be greeted by friendly staff when you arrive for your appointment in a clean and attractive atmosphere. Patients have shared with us, “My nerves went away as soon as I walked into your office. Everyone is so nice and helpful”.
Upon completing the check-in process at the reception desk, you will change into a cloth gown, removing everything from the waist up. Feel free to use deodorant or lotion as you normally would that day. The only thing to avoid would be any lotions containing glitter, which can interfere with the mammogram.
One of our certified mammography technologists will come and get you for your mammogram. It’s essential to speak to your technologist about any concerns you may have about the mammogram. They are experts at positioning your breasts to make each exam as comfortable as possible. Your technologist will ask you to open your gown, slip one arm out of the sleeve, and then take one of your breasts and place it on the flat surface of the mammogram unit. Your technologist will begin slowly bringing the top plate down. You may start to feel slight pressure at this point. The pressure is necessary because it gives a clearer picture of your breast. It prevents blurring from breast motion and helps spread out the breast tissue, so abnormalities aren’t hidden. It also reduces the amount of radiation used to image the breast. When the technologist has appropriate positioning, it is necessary to remain still and closely follow instructions to ensure the best pictures and avoid additional images. Your technologist will walk away behind a shield and begin the mammogram. Each view will take a few seconds. You can expect four views—one top to bottom and one side to side on each breast.
The images are captured in our digital system and sent to our breast imaging radiologists for review. Two radiologists at EWBC read every screening mammogram, unique to EWBC. We use only 3D mammography (also called tomosynthesis) and have used this revolutionary technology since 2011. EWBC was the first breast facility in our area to implement 3D mammography, which gives our radiologists a very detailed picture of your breasts.
If both radiologists read the mammogram as normal, we will send your results by text or email, typically within an hour and a copy of your results will be sent to your referring provider.
If one of the radiologists wants extra pictures or additional testing, we will call you and try and get you back into the office, as soon as possible, frequently the same day.
RESULTS from your appointment:
- Contents of your results letter may contain the following:
- Your breast density (determined from the mammogram) and recommendations for additional screening with ultrasound.
- If you are at a “high risk” for breast cancer. By simply completing our health history questionnaire, we can estimate both your lifetime risk of breast cancer as well as your eligibility for genetic counseling and genetic testing. Obtaining a personalized risk assessment ensures that you are aware of the most appropriate and up-to-date management plan for your own risk factors.
See our video about high-risk
See our video about genetic counseling and genetic testing
- Your scheduled appointment for next year
A mammogram is a screening tool. Having a mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer as early as possible when cancers are small, and survival chances are highest.
A mammogram includes two views (low dose x-ray images) of each breast. The CC view (cranial-caudal) takes a picture of the breast from top to bottom. The MLO view (medial-lateral oblique) captures a side-to-side picture. Snug compression (lasting only seconds) is applied to hold your breast in place and spread the tissue out for a clear image. You may be asked to hold your breath or breathe very quietly during the x-ray.
A screening mammogram is a quick exam. The time in compression lasts only seconds for each view (remember, four views total). The total amount of time you will be in the mammography room will be 5 minutes or less. The total time from the time you walk in the door to the time you walk out is usually no more than 20 minutes.
Average Risk Women
- Screening mammogram starting at age 40
- Yearly exams thereafter as long as in reasonably good health
- Women with a strong family history of breast cancer or genetic mutation may benefit from starting screening earlier than age 40.
- Consult your physician or one of our physicians or genetic counselor about when to start mammography & if any additional imaging is needed such as high-risk breast MRI
Compression can cause mild discomfort but shouldn’t be painful. Try to stay relaxed. Communication with your technologist about your level of discomfort is essential. It is understandable to be nervous, but most women feel like it isn’t as bad as they expect!
If you get called back for extra (additional) imaging, don’t panic! The need for extra views does not mean that there is a problem. Most women (~80%) are normal and don’t need any other testing. Most extra views are due to an area of overlapped breast tissue, which is normal. Positioning the breast in another way (for the extra view) allows the radiologist to see this.
Yes! Depending on the mammography facility, the technologist may ask if you have deodorant, powder, or lotion on your breast. You may need to wipe this off if the technologist feels that it might be in the imaging field of view, as these products can appear as tiny white specks that may look like an abnormality on a mammogram.