UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

How to Prepare

What is a Mammogram?

Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts. A mammography exam, also called a mammogram, is used to aid in the diagnosis of breast diseases in women. An x-ray is a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Radiography involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging. Digital mammography, also called full-field digital mammography (FFDM), is a mammography system in which the x-ray film is replaced by solid-state detectors that convert x-rays into electrical signals. These detectors are similar to those found in digital cameras. The electrical signals are used to produce images of the breast that can be seen on a computer screen or printed on special film similar to conventional mammograms.

Preparation

Before scheduling a mammogram, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and other specialty organizations recommend that you discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your healthcare provider. In addition, inform your healthcare provider of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer. Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time for a mammogram is one week following your period.

Always inform your healthcare provider or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.

It is also recommended that you:

  • Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts the day of the exam. These can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
  • Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
  • If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist at the time of your current exam.
  • Ask when your results will be available do not assume the results are normal if you do not hear from your healthcare provider or the mammography facility.