What is a mammogram?

Mammography is X-ray imaging of your breasts designed to detect tumours or abnormalities. It can help you catch breast cancer early. The test is done while you stand or sit in front of a mammogram machine and a technologist places your breast between two plates to obtain the image.

What are the benefits of getting a mammogram?

Mammography has proven to be a powerful diagnostic tool for the early detection of breast cancer. In fact, when breast cancer is detected before it has spread to lymph nodes, the five-year rate in many countries is now well over 90%*.

How often should I get my mammogram?

Most doctors recommend that women after the age 40-50 should have a mammogram every year. They should continue to do so as long as they are healthy.

How should I prepare for my mammogram?

To help reduce discomfort during mammography, schedule your mammogram approximately one week after your period. During this period your breasts are less tender. You should not wear deodorant, baby or talcum powder, lotion or perfume under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the examination. These substances can leave traces on your mammogram making the images difficult to interpret and could in some cases look like micro calcifications. Any breast symptoms or problems that you are experiencing should be described to the technologist performing the examination. You should also be prepared to discuss your pertinent history with the radiographer: prior surgeries, scars, other marks, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer.

What should I expect?

The examination usually includes two X-ray images of each breast. A qualified technologist will position one of your breasts in the mammography unit, then gradually compress it with a clear plastic compression paddle. Breast compression is necessary to flatten the breast so that a maximum amount of tissue can be examined. Your technologist will instruct you through the examination. You must keep very still while the image is taken so that it is not blurred. The technologist will then repeat the procedure for your other breast. You may be asked to wait until the technologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.

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