Mammography FAQ


WHAT IS A MAMMOGRAM?digitalmammo

A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast.  Doctors use a mammogram to look for signs of breast cancer.


HOW CAN I GET A MAMMOGRAM?

Call your doctor for a referral, or you can call the UNC Breast Imaging Clinic directly at (919) 966-1081.


SHOULD I BRING MY PRIOR MAMMOGRAMS TO MY APPOINTMENT?
Yes, please bring your prior mammograms or have them sent here ahead of time.  At the very least, come with the name and location of where you had a prior mammogram. If you desire, you can print this form, complete it, and bring it to your mammogram appointment.

WHEN SHOULD I GET A MAMMOGRAM?
Women should have their first mammogram at age 40 and then have another mammogram every year. Talk to your health professional if you have any symptoms or changes in your breasts, or if breast cancer runs in your family. He or she may recommend that you have mammograms before age 40 or more often than usual.

HOW IS A MAMMOGRAM PERFORMED?
You will stand in front of a special x-ray machine.  A technologist will place your breast on a plastic plate. Another plate will firmly press your breast  from above. The plates will flatten the breast, holding it still while the x-ray is being taken. You will feel some pressure. The other breast will be x-rayed in the same way. The steps are then repeated to make a side view of each breast. Keep in mind that the technologist cannot tell you the results of your mammogram.

HOW SHOULD I PREPARE FOR MY MAMMOGRAM?
The day of your appointment, wear a shirt that can be easily removed. Do not use deodorant, talcum powder or lotion on your underarms or breasts. If you have had a mammogram at a different facility, obtain and bring your past x-rays with you. If you cannot bring them with you, provide the name and address of the facility where the mammogram was taken.
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WHAT DOES HAVING A MAMMOGRAM FEEL LIKE?
Having a mammogram is uncomfortable for most women. A mammogram only takes a few moments, though, and the discomfort is soon over. What you feel depends on the size of your breasts and how much they will need to be compressed. Good compression is essential for correct evaluation of your breasts. Your breasts can be more sensitive if you are about to get or are having your period.

WHEN WILL I GET THE RESULTS OF MY SCREENING MAMMOGRAM?
You will usually get the results of your screening mammogram within a few weeks.  A radiologist reads your mammogram and then reports the results to your doctor. If there is a concern, you will hear from the mammography facility earlier. Contact your health professional or the mammography facility if you do not receive a report of results within 30 days.  Do not assume that results are normal if you have not gotten them back.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MY MAMMOGRAM IS NORMAL?
Continue to get regular mammograms.  Mammograms work best when they can be compared with previous ones, so your doctor can look for changes in your breasts.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MY MAMMOGRAM IS ABNORMAL?

If it is abnormal, do not panic. An abnormal mammogram does not always mean there is cancer. But you will need to have additional mammogram tests or other exams before the doctor can tell for sure. You may also be referred to a breast specialist or a surgeon. It does not necessarily mean you have cancer or need surgery. These doctors are experts in diagnosing breast problems. 

 



INFORMATION YOU WILL BE ASKED WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR APPOINTMENT:

  • Any personal history of breast cancer
  • Any family history of breast cancer
  • Any current breast problems
  • Any past breast surgery
  • The date(s) of your past mammogram(s)
  • The name and address of your doctor and any facility where you have had a mammogram