Mammograms 101

All About Mammograms

At some point in her life, every woman will be recommended to get her first mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. It is the best screening tool widely used today to detect breast cancer early — when chances for survival are greatest.

Talking to your doctor will help you determine at what age is right for you to get your first mammogram, depending on your family history and risk. You can get a mammogram in a doctor’s office, radiology department of a hospital, clinics, imaging centers and mammography vans. Find out where you can connect to central and southern New Jersey breast health resources here.

Before your mammography appointment, you may want to ask your doctor certain questions to feel more comfortable or at ease. To help you understand your first mammogram, you can click here for a printable card to take with you to your physician.

What You Can Expect

Getting a screening mammogram takes about 15 minutes. Below you will find some helpful information to better understand your first mammogram:

  • Before the mammogram, you will undress from the waist up. It may be helpful to wear loose clothing or a shirt you can remove easily.
  • Avoid using deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes, powders or lotions on your breasts and underarm areas on the day of the exam. Ingredients in these products can show up on a mammogram and make it harder to read.
  • During the exam, each breast is pressed between 2 plates and an x-ray image is made. Two views of each breast are taken, one with the x-ray beam aimed from top to bottom and the other from side to side.
  • Sometimes, the pressure can be uncomfortable, but it only lasts for a few seconds. If you have concerns, talk with your health care provider about taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before the exam.
  • Your provider can also discuss other ways to help ease discomfort (or anxiety) during a mammogram. Before the exam, let your technologist know if you have any concerns or if you feel any discomfort during the exam.

Getting Your Results

Some centers may give you the results of your mammogram at the time of your screening. Otherwise, it may take up to 2 weeks to get your results.

If you don’t get your results within 2 weeks, contact your health care provider or the mammography center. Don’t assume the results were normal because you didn’t get a report. Follow-up to get your results.


Here at Komen CSNJ, we are dedicated to ending breast cancer forever, and we are here for those that need guidance, support and help. Visit our website at komencsnj.org for more information.