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A mammogram (MAM-oh-gram) is an x-ray picture of the breasts. The dose of radiation from the x-ray is very low and safe. A mammogram can find breast cancer that is too small for you or your doctor to feel.
Mammograms have saved many lives.
A screening mammogram is done if you have no symptoms of breast disease. It is the best way to find breast cancer early.
By law, you do not need a prescription or referral if you meet the age guidelines. However, a testing center does not have to accept patients who do not have a prescription or do not have a current primary care physician to receive the report.
The age guidelines for a screening mammogram are:
A diagnostic mammogram is for women or men who have signs or symptoms of breast disease. A prescription or referral is needed for a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram is done if you have:
After your mammogram, you may be asked to return for more tests. Each woman has unique breast tissue. Sometimes more tests are needed to see if something is abnormal. Some women get more breast x-ray tests that view the breast from different positions. Other women get a breast ultrasound or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
You will be taken to a dressing room or private area. You will be asked to remove your top and cover your upper body with a gown.
When you are in the mammography room, the only other person with you is the mammography technologist.
You will be standing during the test. One at a time, your breasts are placed between 2 plastic plates. The 2 plates are then moved closer together. Your breast will feel pressure when this happens. This may be uncomfortable for a few seconds while your breast is compressed, but it helps to get a good picture. The technologist takes 2 pictures of each breast. More pictures may be taken for a diagnostic mammogram.
Your mammogram will be read by a radiologist. A radiologist is a doctor who is trained to read x-rays and identify diseases.
For a screening mammogram: The radiologist does not read your x-ray at the time of your visit. You will get the results within 3-4 working days of the test.
For a diagnostic mammogram: In most cases, you will get your results during your visit. If not, the testing center or your doctor may call you later.
If you do not get the results at the time of your test: Ask the staff at the testing center how and when to get your results. Call the testing center or your doctor if you do not receive the results within the time you were told.