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How to Prepare for Your Next Mammogram

If it’s time to make an appointment for a mammogram, experts at St. Joseph's Medical Center offer some tips before you go.

Mammograms are the premier tool for detecting breast cancer as early as possible. But some women avoid getting mammograms because they’re afraid of how the test will feel. When you know what to expect and how to prepare, you’ll find that getting a mammogram is an easy way to take care of your health.

Here’s how to prepare for your next mammogram:

  • Know the screening guidelines. Although different organizations offer different recommendations about when women should begin breast cancer screenings and how often they should get them, the American Cancer Society® recommends that women at average risk of breast cancer get mammograms every year between ages 45 and 54. Women aged 55 and older can switch to getting mammograms every other year or may continue with annual mammograms. Women ages 40 to 44 have the option to begin getting mammograms if they want. It’s best to talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.

  • Choose a facility. If possible, go to a facility like St. Joseph's Medical Center which specializes in mammograms. If you’ve had a mammogram done before, try to go to the same facility (as long as you felt it was a quality place) so your results can more easily be compared to previous screenings.

  • Schedule your appointment. Once you’ve decided where to go, it’s time to make an appointment. Select a date and time that’s convenient for you but try to avoid the week before your period, when your breasts are more likely to be tender or swollen.

  • Bring previous records. If you’ve had breast screenings done at other facilities, bring those records with you or arrange to have them sent to the new facility so they can be used as a basis for comparison. This should include mammograms, biopsies, and any other screenings or breast procedures performed.

  • Follow instructions. Most facilities will give you instructions on what to do when you come for your mammogram. In case they don’t, or you forget, the only thing you need to do on the day of the exam is to not use any deodorant, antiperspirant, perfume, lotion, cream, or powder on your breasts or under your arms.

  • Inform the technician. Let the person doing the test know about any areas of concern and any breast changes you’ve noticed. Let them know if you have breast implants, are breastfeeding, or think you might be pregnant. Ask any questions you may have before the test begins.

  • Relax. Some people dread getting mammograms because they feel they are uncomfortable but remind yourself that it’s only a few minutes of discomfort that can potentially save your life (breast compressions only last 10 to 15 seconds per image). The more you relax and think positive thoughts, the less bothered you will be by the test.

  • Congratulate yourself. Getting routine mammograms is an important step in maintaining your breast health. Be proud of yourself for taking that step.

St. Joseph's Medical Center  is fully accredited by The Joint Commission, the American College of Radiology, and the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. Accreditations like these are achieved by programs that offer a full range of medical services and ensure that the highest quality and care standards are maintained at all times. Our board-certified radiologists and experienced imaging technologists work together to produce quality images and evaluations for physicians and their patients. 

Screenings are by appointment only. For more information, please call St. Joseph's Medical Center at (209) 943-2000.


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Date Last Reviewed: August 18, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD