Screening Mammogram Pearls


I was speaking to someone who was about to head to her first screening mammogram. I had forgotten how nervous you can be.  As we chatted, I realized that we, as medical professionals, often forget to stress how to prepare for this study.


Here are my screening mammogram pearls in order to get the best images of your breasts:

  • Cleanse your chest the day of your imaging.
  • Do not put on any body lotion, perfume, powders or deodorant as this may cause artifacts on the image.
  • Do not wear any jewelry that may drape across your chest.
  • Remove all breast piercings to reduce any artifacts on the images.
  • Wear a 2-piece outfit so that you can keep your bottoms on and stay warm as you will be asked to remove everything from your waist up.
  •  Put the cape on with the opening to the front. They are either paper or cloth capes.
  • The technician will place one breast at a time on the platform. The technician will tighten the plates until you are slightly uncomfortable.
  • They may ask you to hold your breathe for a few seconds while the image is obtained.
  • The technician will take at least two images of each breast and from two different directions. 
  • After they confirm the quality of the images, they will ask you to get dressed and leave.

Your facility may have a radiologist speak to you the same day but most of the time, you will receive the mammogram report at a later date.  The technician cannot give you any information about what they see on their screens.  Do not yell at them or argue with them about this. You will be able to review your results via your patient portal in 1-2 days or you will receive a report in a few days in the mail. Do not assume that ‘no news is good news’.  You need to see the official report.


If it is negative, they will tell you when to come back for your next screening.  Review the report and make sure you understand everything about what it says. If there are any areas that needs to be looked at closer, you will be asked to come back for additional views.  This could be a diagnostic mammogram, a breast ultrasound or a breast MRI.  This will depend on what they see and your community’s resources.  If you are in doubt about how to prepare for the next imaging study, call and speak to someone about what to expect.   

These are just a few pearls that may reduce your anxiety and will ensure that you have the best quality images.  Send me an email if you would like for me to expand on any of this information.

Young woman with breast cancer

When Should You Begin Breast Cancer Screening?

It is that time of the year where we focus on your breasts! I was thinking about the topic on my walk this morning when I noticed these two pairs of acorns that literally just looked like breasts to me. It was a sign!


Are you over the age of 40 or have a first degree relative (mom, dad, sisters/brothers) that has a history of breast cancer? There is no clear consensus for when women with average risk should begin screening for breast cancer but most will say that you should begin between the ages of 40-49.  See the Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines under our Resources Tab.  There are several risk factors that may move the start age up.  This is a conversation you should be having with your primary care clinician or ob/gyn so that you two can review your family history and other risk factors.  

Breast cancer accounts for 30% of the new cancer diagnosis each year but due to improved technology and treatment, we now have a 90% 5-year survival rate.

  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • It is second most common type in women behind skin cancer
  • Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer.
  • The two biggest risk factors are being a woman and advanced age.
  • Less than 1% of all diagnosis will be in men.

Screening mammograms are done when there is no current problem. Diagnostic mammograms are done when there is a question about something they see on the screening mammogram and they are doing a more detailed look at the problem area.

As an ObGyn, I follow ACOG’s recommendations but you may be seeing a family medicine clinician who is following the USPTF (first column) guidelines. Once you discuss your risk factors, you can decide at what age you need to begin getting them, how often or when to stop them. You can decide if you want to get genetic testing done.

Educate yourself and ask family members if they have had breast disease.  Review the Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines.  Make an appointment with your clinician so that you can review your options if you think you are at high risk.  Speak up for yourself if you do not agree with your clinician’s advice. My feisty mom was told that she didn’t need one since she was over 70. She told them she didn’t care and would pay for it out of pocket. You guessed it. It showed a small change which was diagnosed as a Stage I breast cancer.

Your insurance company may have guidelines on what they will pay for but you can always agree to pay for one out of pocket if you want to.  If you do not have insurance, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 and they can direct you to the nearest place that can assist you.