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Most ladies will often wonder ‘what is a mammogram’. This simple question can help save many lives. Mammography is a medical procedure that is recommended to women for early detection as well as diagnosis of breast cancer. It is a noninvasive procedure that can help the doctor detect any  abnormality in the breast tissue.

Why is Mammography Done?

Mammography is done to help detect cancer. It is also useful as a diagnostic tool to learn more about an existing breast lump. In case of screening mammography, it is used to detect changes in the breast cells when there are no obvious abnormalities observed. Diagnostic mammography  is done to learn more about any lumps, changes, appearance as well as pain in breast.

Mammography is done for women over the age of 40 annually or every two years. This is done in cases of women without a family history of breast cancer. In case of a family history of the disease, women are advised to regularly undergo the test before the  age of 40.

Procedure Overview

The test is very simple and does not involve much discomfort. There are different types of mammograms that give precise breast imaging. These different types include:

  • Digital Mammography: is used to learn more about any abnormal lump, appearance or nipple shape in or of the breast.
  • Computer-aided detection: is done to find any abnormal area, calcification or mass in the breast.
  • Breast tomosynthesis: is an advanced 3D imaging process that helps in creating series of thin slices of breast images that helps detect cancer faster.

Before the Procedure

  • The doctor will try to schedule the procedure according to your menstrual cycle, such that, the test is conducted during the days when the breast tenderness is the least.
  • Do not use any deodorant, lotion, powder, perfume or other cosmetics on the day of the test.
  • Make sure you wear a two piece outfit, so that it is easy to undress from waist up.
  • Make sure you tell the doctor or technician, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

During the Procedure

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  • You will be asked to undress waist up and may be asked to wear a wrap.
  • You will be asked to position yourself for the mammogram. The breast will be flattened against the metal plates of the machine.
  • The technician may mark any mole, spots or other skin scars, so that they do not interfere during the examination of the breast image.
  • A plastic flat plate will be brought down on top of the compressed breast gently.
  • Images will be taken of the breast from different angles and you may be asked to reposition yourself for different images.
  • The entire process takes just about 20-30 minutes.
  • Some patients may experience slight pain during the compression and some may not feel any discomfort.

After the Procedure

There is no aftercare required after the procedure. A mammogram is just like an X ray procedure. However, in some cases, depending on the individual situation, the doctor may advise certain car tips after the mammogram.


A normal result of mammogram is considered when there is no mass or calcification observed in the breast tissue. However, any abnormalities observed may be evaluated as:

  • Noncancerous cysts
  • Cancerous or benign lump
  • Deposits of calcium in the breast tissue
  • Presence of malignant cancer

There is very low risk of radiation associated with mammography. Women over the age of 40 should undergo this screening test annually, for early detection of any abnormality in the breast. Speak to a health care provider for more details regarding mammography

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 27, 2015

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