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Breast Cancer Health Center

Breast Cancer and Mammograms

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What Happens During a Mammogram? continued...

You will be asked to stand in front of an X-ray machine. The mammography technologist will place your breast between two radiographic breast supports. The supports will be pressed together, gently flattening the breast. Compression is necessary to obtain the clearest possible picture with the least amount of radiation. You may feel some discomfort or slight pain from this pressure, but it will only last for a few seconds while the X-ray is being taken. Your cooperation for these few seconds is important to get a clear picture. If you feel that the pressure on your breast is too great, tell the technologist performing the exam. To minimize discomfort during compression, you may want to consider scheduling your appointment seven to 10 days after the start of your period, when your breast are least likely to be tender.

The breast will be imaged in several positions to enable the radiologist to see all breast tissue adequately. For a routine breast screening, two pictures are taken of each breast. This exam takes about 20 minutes. Many centers also do 3-D mammography. This is similar to regular mammograms but many more pictures of the breast are taken at various angles to produce a 3-D picture for the radiologist to check.

After examining the digital images, the radiologist may ask the technologist to obtain additional images or a breast ultrasound for a more precise diagnosis. This is a routine measure.

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