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When it comes to breast health, early detection is the best prevention. Women should have regular mammograms beginning at age 40, or sooner if recommended by their health care provider.

What to Expect During Your Mammogram

A mammogram is a X-ray picture of the breast used to detect tumors and cysts and help differentiate benign and malignant diseases. It's an important screening tool in a woman's personal fight against breast cancer. Your technologist will take a brief history from you, and then begin your mammography exam.

During your mammogram, your breast will be placed on a flat surface by the mammographer. A compression paddle will then be pressed firmly against the breast to flatten out the tissue. Although the pressure of the mammogram only lasts a few seconds, some women find it uncomfortable. Please tell your technologist what you are experiencing and how you feel. They will be able to respond to your specific needs and address your concerns to assure you have the best possible mammogram experience. It may be uncomfortable but should not be painful. The screening should take about 15-30 minutes to complete.

A More Comfortable Mammogram


Getting a mammogram with the SmartCurveâ„¢ system is just like a getting a regular Genius Examâ„¢ - only more comfortable! The curved design of the compression device mirrors the shape of a woman's breast to reduce pinching and applies uniform compression over the entire breast for added comfort.The technologist will view the images of your breast at the computer workstation to ensure quality images have been captured for review. A radiologist will then examine the images and report results to either your physician or directly to you. Check with your clinic or provider to see if this technology is available near you.

Mammograms FAQ

How should I prepare for my mammogram?

In order to prepare for your mammogram, please:

  • If possible, have a physical exam (including a breast examination) from your health care provider prior to your mammogram.
  • Schedule your mammogram when your breasts are the least tender. If you are menstruating, that will be one week after your period.
  • Wear a separate top and bottom so that it will be easier and more comfortable to disrobe from your waist up.
  • Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder, ointment or lotion on your breasts or underarm area.
  • Be able to share where and when you have had prior mammograms so we can obtain them prior to your appointment.
How will the results be shared?
A radiologist, a physician who specializes in reading x-ray exams, will read your mammogram. Results will be sent to you and your doctor. In most cases, results will be available in 24 to 48 hours.
What's the advantage to getting a mammogram?
A mammogram is used to detect breast cancer in the earliest stage when it is most treatable, and mammograms can find breast cancer tumors up to two years before they can be felt during a physical exam.
Who should get a mammogram?
  • It is recommended that women begin annual mammograms and medical breast exams at age 40.
  • If you have a family history of breast cancer, please talk to your primary care provider about when you should start getting mammograms and how often you should get them.
  • If you are a transgender individual, it’s important to discuss specific breast cancer screening needs with your primary care provider.
Why is compression important?
Proper compression makes it easier to identify cancers that would not be seen otherwise. It is vital to get a clear x-ray picture of the entire breast. Compression also reduces the amount of radiation to your breast and the rest of your body.
Why is early detection important?
It saves lives. Most mammograms results are negative (disease-free). Even if a lump is found, eight out of 10 are NOT cancer. When cancer is detected, the survival rate is near 100% for individuals whose tumors are detected and treated early (when they are less than 1 centimeter in size).
Do you have programs that offer free or low-cost mammograms?

Several of the communities we serve have programs that offer free or low cost mammograms to individuals who are underinsured or uninsured. Please reach out to the contact below to find out if you’re eligible.

Care for Yourself: Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings

The Care for Yourself program provides free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings to qualified Iowans. Visit the Care for Yourself website to see if you’re eligible.

To enroll, call 1-866-399-7909, visit the Care For Yourself website or talk with a primary care provider at a location/organization listed below. After you enroll and are approved, you’ll be seen at an approved screening location closest to you.


Pink Days: Free Mammogram Program

Pink Days is a free mammogram program for uninsured and underinsured women in the Des Moines area that includes follow-up diagnostic mammograms and breast ultrasounds, if needed. Women who require additional testing beyond this, or those diagnosed with cancer or a pre-cancerous condition, will be enrolled in the Iowa Care for Yourself program for further testing and treatment.

To see if you qualify, complete the Pink Days Request Form and a representative will contact you.


3D Mammography

Early detection is the best defense against breast cancer, and mammography has been the gold standard screening examination for the early detection of it. Since the development of standard mammography, there have been major advances in the technology. Digital 2D mammography was the most recent advancement introduced. Now, DBT or 3D Mammography, has taken this technology to a new level.

The breast is a three-dimensional object composed of different structures, such as blood vessels, milk ducts, fat and ligaments. All these structures, which are located at different levels within the breast, can overlap and cause uncertainty when viewed as a two-dimensional, flat image. The uncertainty of overlapping tissue is a leading reason why small breast cancers may be missed and normal tissue may appear abnormal, leading to unnecessary call-backs.

3D Mammograms FAQ

Am I a candidate for 3D mammography?
Health care providers believe all patients benefit from 3D mammography. However, the best candidates are those with dense breast tissue and/or a strong family history of breast cancer.

Do I get more radiation with 3D mammography?
Our state-of-the-art technology results in X-ray exposure that's similar to a standard 2D mammogram. The FDA has found the combination of 3D and standard mammography to be safe and effective for patient use.

What are the benefits of 3D mammography?
With conventional digital mammography, the radiologist is viewing all of the overlapped tissues of the breast in one flat 2D image. This can, in some instances, give the illusion of an abnormality even though the breast is normal, and can also mask an actual tumor due to superimposed breast structures.

By looking at the breast tissue in one millimeter slices, the radiologist can provide a more accurate assessment. 3D mammography provides a 25 percent improvement in overall cancer detection rates, finding 40 percent more invasive cancers than conventional mammography. It also means there is less chance of you being called back for a "second look" mammogram because of overlapped normal structures. The "false positive" rates are reduced by up to 40 percent.
What is Digital Breast 3D Mammography?
Digital Breast Tomosynthesis is a new technology in the fight against breast cancer. It allows doctors to examine a breast tissue one layer at a time. During 3D mammography, multiple low-dose images or "slices" of the breast are taken at different angles. With this new technology, the radiologist can view a mammogram in a way never before possible. As a result, fine details of the breast are more clearly visible and no longer hidden by overlapping tissue.

What should I expect from 3D mammography?
3D mammography is very similar to a traditional mammogram. Just as with a traditional digital mammogram, the technologist will position you, compress your breast under a paddle and take images from different angles. Positioning is the same as a standard 2D mammogram. The exposure time will be longer by just a few seconds, depending on the density of your breasts. Although 3D mammography takes a few seconds longer, there is no additional compression.

Will my insurance cover 3D mammography?
Most insurance companies cover 3D mammography, but please contact your carrier for complete details.