How to Prepare for a Mammogram - PIH Health

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Published on August 04, 2016

How to Prepare for a Mammogram

How to prepare for a mammogram

Getting ready to have a mammogram, a common type of breast cancer screening for women 40+, requires some simple steps. Ivan Barrett MD, lead interpreting physician and medical director at PIH Health Downey Hospital shares eight things that can help you prepare for your exam:

  1. Choose an American College of Radiology (ACR)-accredited facility: Accreditation requires a rigorous review helping to ensure that equipment, technologies, staff qualifications, safety, image quality and more are up to par.
  2. Research the physicians and mammographer: A radiation technologist (RT) who has a subspecialty license in mammography will conduct the actual exam consisting of taking x-ray images of your breasts. A physician, known as a radiologist, will review and interpret the images once the mammogram exam has been completed. Making sure your radiologist is board-certified is also something you can research prior to your appointment. Ensuring your doctor is board certified means that a doctor has demonstrated and been certified at a particular competency level.
  3. Do not make an appointment just prior to or during your menstrual cycle: The ideal time to schedule an appointment for your mammography screening is immediately after your period. A mammogram during your period or immediately prior can be more painful since your breasts are tender and swollen then. By avoiding an appointment during this time also results in clearer breast images.
  4. Avoid deodorant, perfume and lotion: On the day of your appointment, do not wear any deodorant, perfume or lotion under your arms or close to the breast area as this can cause shadows in the x-ray pictures and make it more difficult for the radiologist to interpret the images.
  5. Over the counter pain medication: The mammography exam is simple but can be uncomfortable for some. If you want to avoid or reduce pain associated with your mammogram, taking a mild over-the-counter pain medication like aspirin can help.
  6. Review your mammography history: If you are getting a mammogram done at a new facility, bring your previous images and/or ask that they release the information in your medical record to the new facility. This background information will help the radiation technologist and radiologist to add another level of personalized care for you.
  7. Wear appropriate clothing:  Since a mammogram requires taking a picture of your breasts, it is best to wear a two piece outfit which will make it easier for you to remove your top and bra for the exam, and to put a gown on. Button up tops may also provide more of a convenience for you. 
  8. Write down any changes with your breasts: If you have noticed any abnormalities, pain or any other changes to your breasts, write down your concerns to remind yourself to discuss them with your physician or RT during your appointment.

To schedule your next mammography appointment with PIH Health, please call:

  • 562.904.5555 (Downey)
  • 626.225.4905 (Hacienda Heights)
  • 562.907.0667 (Whittier)

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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