Mammogram: About This Test

What is a mammogram test?

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that is used to screen for breast cancer. This test can find tumors that are too small for you or your doctor to feel. Cancer is most easily treated and cured when it is found at an early stage.

Why is this test done?

A mammogram is done to:

  • Look for breast cancer in women who don’t have symptoms.
  • Find breast cancer in women who have symptoms. Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump or thickening in the breast, nipple discharge, or dimpling of the skin on one area of the breast.
  • Find an area of suspicious breast tissue to remove for an exam under a microscope (biopsy).

How can you prepare for a mammogram test?

  • Tell your doctor if you:
    • Are or might be pregnant.
    • Are breastfeeding.
    • Have breast implants.
    • Have previously had a breast biopsy.
  • On the day of the test, don’t use any deodorant, perfume, powders, or ointments.

What happens before the test?

  • You will need to take off any jewelry that might interfere with the X-ray pictures.
  • You will need to take off your clothes above the waist.
  • You will be given a cloth or paper gown to use during the test.

What happens during the test?

  • You usually stand during a mammogram.
  • One at a time, your breasts will be placed on a flat plate that contains the X-ray film.
  • Another plate is then pressed firmly against your breast to help flatten out the breast tissue. You may be asked to lift your arm.
  • For a few seconds while the X-ray picture is being taken, you will need to hold your breath.