Your first mammogram can be intimidating. At the Breast Center, we want to make it simple for you and answer as many questions ahead of time as possible.

Mammography Screening Recommendations

For those at a normal risk level, a baseline mammogram is recommended between the ages of 35-40. If no concerns are identified at that time, you should have a mammogram every year starting at age 40. Speak with your primary care provider about your individual risk factors that may affect this recommendation. Factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer include:

  • Family history of breast cancer

  • Previous noncancerous tumor of the breast

  • No childbirth or childbirth after the age of 35

Scheduling Your Mammogram

For your convenience, you do not need an order from your primary care doctor to come to the Breast Center for a screening mammogram. However, we will ask you for your primary care provider’s contact information to send the results of your screening. See screening mammogram vs. diagnostic mammogram below if you are unsure whether you need a screening or a diagnostic mammogram.

If your breasts are usually tender the week before your period, it is a good idea to avoid scheduling your mammogram then.

When you schedule, we will ask you if you want 3-D mammography. This new technology gives us clearer pictures and helps us better spot irregularities. We recommend it for all women, but especially for women with dense breasts. Learn more about 3-D mammography.

You can get a mammogram if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have breast implants. Make sure to tell the technician if any of these issues apply to you.

Getting Your Mammogram

When you come to the Breast Center, we try to have you in and out as quickly as possible. This is how you can expect your appointment to go:

  1. After you check in with the Breast Center receptionist, you can relax in our lobby. Have a cup of coffee, cappuccino or hot tea, or enjoy a cookie. We work to keep your wait time to a minimum.

  2. Your mammogram technologist will call you back to a mammography suite. The suite includes a dressing room where you can change. We will ask you to undress from the waist up and put on a gown. You can leave your personal items and clothing in the changing room.

  3. When you come out of the changing room, it will be only you and the mammography technologist in the room. She will carefully position your breast on the bottom plate of the mammogram machine. Then she will lower the top plate to compress your breast and take a picture. It may be slightly uncomfortable, but the compression is necessary to get a good picture of the tissue. It lasts only a matter of seconds. The technologist will have specific instructions for when to hold your breath.

  4. We typically take 2 views of each breast. If the technologist needs to take more views than that, she will let you know.

  5. After your mammogram is complete, you can change back into your clothes and you are free to go. We will call you the next business day with the result. We also send a letter with the results to you and to your primary care provider.

  6. If you need a follow-up mammogram for another look, we will get an order from your primary care provider before we call you. This way, when we call you, we can schedule you as soon as possible.

Mammogram Tips

While you do not need to do anything to prepare for a mammogram, keep these recommendations in mind:

  • Always tell your mammography technologist if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have breast implants. Tell her about any breast changes you have noticed or any history of breast cancer in your family.

  • Do not wear deodorant or antiperspirant to your mammogram. These substances can create white spots on your mammogram, which may cause you to have to come back for more images. We provide wipes to remove deodorant if you forget. We provide spray deodorant that you can use after your mammogram.

  • Some discomfort is normal when your breast is compressed. If it is very painful, tell the technologist right away.

Screening Mammogram vs. Diagnostic Mammogram

We use a screening mammogram to check for breast changes if you do not have any symptoms. Your regular yearly mammogram is a screening mammogram.

We use a diagnostic mammogram to look more closely at breast changes if you have symptoms or your screening mammogram shows something abnormal. We may need to take more pictures in a diagnostic mammogram, focusing on the specific area we want to examine.

If you are at high risk for breast cancer, we may combine a screening mammogram with other diagnostic tests, such as a breast MRI. A breast MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of the breast. We may also combine a diagnostic mammogram with these other tests.

If you are called back for a diagnostic mammogram, take a breath. It is very common to be called back after a first mammogram, because there is no previous mammogram for comparison. Less than 10 percent of women who get called back for more tests are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Contact Us

To schedule a mammogram or other test at the Breast Center, or to refer a patient, please call (217) 223-8400, ext. 4300. To request a mammogram appointment online, please click here to submit a request.