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What you should know about getting a mammogram
  • A mammogram is an x-ray picture of your breast. Mammograms can find breast cancer that is too small for you or your doctor to feel. When found early you have more treatment choices.
  • Starting at the age of 40 you should have a breast exam and mammogram once a year. Getting a mammogram every year helps to find breast cancer early. When found early you have a 96% chance of survival! 
  • The best time to make an appointment for a mammogram is after your period when your breasts are not so tender. If you don't get a period anymore make sure to make your appointment at the same time every year.
  • Before you go to your mammogram appointment don't use deodorant, perfume, powder or lotion. These things make it hard to read the mammogram because they can change the picture. Make sure you tell the doctor if you're having any problems with your breasts.
  • To get the best picture your breasts must be flat (just for a minute). When your breast is flat it helps the doctor see any changes or lumps.
  • You should still have a mammogram every year even if you have breast implants. Breast implants make it harder - but not impossible - to get a good mammogram. By law the person taking the mammogram must ask you if you have breast implants. If they don't ask, make sure you tell them.
How do you know that you are getting a good mammogram?
  • To protect your health and to make sure that the office where you got your mammogram is a good one, the Mammogram Quality Standard Act (MQSA) was passed by the federal government in 1992.
  • Mammogram machines have to be checked and tested regularly to make sure they work right. After the machines are tested a certificate is given to the office. The certificate must be put up in the office in a place where you can see it. Look for the certificate in the office you go to. If you don't see it, ask where it is.
  • Click here for more information on MQSA.
What happens after you get your mammogram?
  • Remember a mammogram is an X-ray of your breasts; and an X-ray is a picture. A doctor, known as a radiologist, looks at the pictures taken of your breasts. The radiologist makes a report of what he finds and sends the report to your regular doctor.
  • The place where you had your mammogram will send a letter to you to let you know how the mammogram turned out. You should receive the letter no later than 30 days after your appointment. This letter will have the name of the radiologist and will let you know if you need any follow-up care.
  • If you do not get a letter call either your regular doctor or the place where you had your mammogram and ask them to send you one. Just because you do not get a letter doesn't mean that everything is normal.
  • Remember, if you are age 40 or older you need a mammogram every year!

Cancer Detection Programs: Every Woman Counts offers free breast exams and mammograms to women age 40 and older. To see if you qualify for these free tests call 1-800-511-2300 Monday - Friday from 8:30 AM to 5 PM. We speak English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.

Last modified on: 1/23/2008 10:45 PM