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Women's Health

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What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Deodorant, perfume, powders, or ointments applied to the breasts or under the arms before the test. They may interfere with the X-ray pictures.
  • Breast implants or scar tissue from previous breast surgery. This may make a mammogram harder to interpret.

A mammogram is not usually done if you are:

  • Pregnant, because the radiation could damage your developing baby (fetus). If a mammogram is absolutely needed for diagnosing a problem, a lead apron will be placed over your abdomen to shield your baby from exposure to the X-rays.
  • Breast-feeding, because breasts that contain milk are very difficult to examine.

What To Think About

  • Most abnormalities found during a mammogram are not breast cancer. But many women who have regular screening mammograms need more tests to investigate any abnormalities found during a mammogram. If an area of your breast tissue appears to be a concern during a mammogram, other tests such as an ultrasound may be done.
  • Mammogram results are harder to interpret in women before menopause because breast tissue in younger women is denser than in older women. Mammograms may be less accurate in obese women.
  • A digital mammogram allows your doctor to view different parts of the breast without taking more images. Digital mammograms have the same overall accuracy as standard mammograms. The procedure in which a digital mammogram is done is the same as a standard mammogram-each procedure takes about the same amount of time, and breast compression is needed for both. Images from a digital mammogram can be magnified and stored electronically.
  • A digital mammogram may be done along with digital breast tomosynthesis to make a three-dimensional picture of the breast.
  • If you come from a family where women have had breast cancer earlier than age 40, talk to your doctor about what age to start screening. If you have a very strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you may want to have a breast cancer (BRCA) gene test. To learn more, see the topic Breast Cancer (BRCA) Gene Test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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