Mammograms: Five Facts to Know

Friday, October 21, 2022


Mammograms help provide crucial breast cancer protection through early detection. So, as a woman, you'll want to know more about these screening tests.

If you're wondering when you should start getting mammograms, that's a conservation for you and your doctor. They can answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, here are five key facts.

1. Mammograms are the best breast cancer screening tool we have to find cancer early. Doctors use mammograms to check for lumps or other breast changes that are too small to be felt. Although mammograms aren't perfect—they sometimes miss cancers or detect things that look like cancer but are not—these x-rays can find breast cancer early. That's when treatment is often more successful and potentially life-saving.

2. Women should start screening at age 40. Watson Clinic recommends that annual breast cancer screening for women should start at the age of 40.

3. You can prepare for a smoother, better mammogram. If you still have menstrual periods, try not to schedule your mammogram during the week before your period. Your breasts may be less tender and swollen outside of that time frame, making the mammogram more comfortable for you and the image better for the radiologist to read.

Also, avoid using deodorant, lotion, perfume or powder under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the mammogram. These things can interfere with the x-rays, which could cause your mammogram result to be inaccurate. If you have breast implants, let the mammogram facility know this when you make the appointment.

4. Getting a mammogram takes about 20 minutes. During the test, each breast is briefly placed between two plates, one at a time. The plates compress each breast, which spreads the tissue out for a clearer x-ray picture. Usually, two pictures are taken of each breast.

5. An abnormal mammogram doesn't automatically mean you have cancer. Try to keep that in mind if you get called back for additional testing after your mammogram. Suspicious findings could be just a cyst or dense breast tissue. Follow-up mammograms or other tests may be needed to find out. And sometimes the doctor just needs a clearer image than the first one.

Watson Clinic's Breast Health Services department is proud to inspire heightened breast health awareness and a better quality of life for women throughout central Florida.

Sources: American Cancer Society; Office on Women's Health


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