Mammograms: What to Expect at Your Visit


Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women—making up 30% of new cancers in women each year. A mammogram test can help your doctor look for signs of cancer, and getting regular mammograms can facilitate early breast cancer detection. Early detection of breast cancer can help improve treatment results and even save lives. Read more to find out when you should start getting mammograms and what to expect during your appointment.


What is a Mammogram?


A mammogram is an x-ray examination of the breast. Doctors use mammograms for early detection and diagnosing breast cancer. Mammograms are performed with special machines designed only to examine the breast's tissue. 


The mammogram machine has two plates that flatten the chest and spread the breast tissue apart. A mammogram machine then uses a low amount of x-ray to take a picture. The image is digitally saved as a file on the computer, where your doctor can view it. 


The two different types of mammograms are:

Who Should Get Mammograms?


Women who have an average risk of developing breast cancer should start getting screening mammograms at the age of 40. Women at a higher than average risk of getting breast cancer should discuss the frequency and start date of their mammograms with their doctor. If you are unsure of your breast cancer risk, UAB Medical West staff are available to discuss it with you. 


What do Mammograms Show? 


Mammograms can help doctors detect abnormal areas in the breasts. Your doctor can then decide if further testing of an abnormal area is necessary to determine if breast cancer is present. Mammograms can show the following breast tissue abnormalities:

What Does it Feel Like to Have a Mammogram?


Having a mammogram can be an uncomfortable experience for most women. However, a mammogram only takes a few moments, and the discomfort shouldn't last long. Your experience with a mammogram will depend on the size of your breast, the skill of the mammography technologist, and the amount that the breast tissue needs to be spread. 


What if the Result of My Mammogram is Normal? 


If the result of your mammogram is normal, you may continue getting mammograms at the interval recommended by your doctor. It is important to continue to receive regular mammograms because comparing them to one another can help your doctor notice any changes in your breasts. 


What if the Results of My Mammogram are Abnormal? 


An abnormal mammogram result is not always indicative of breast cancer. Your doctor will most likely order additional mammograms, tests, and exams before making their final diagnosis. A breast specialist will carefully examine the results of follow-up tests to determine if there is a presence of cancer. 


Be Proactive 


UAB Medical West professionals will talk to you about your breast cancer risks and advise you when to begin getting mammograms. Staying ahead of the problem and getting regular screenings can help your medical team catch any issues at their onset and be proactive about treatment. Breast health is an essential aspect of any woman's life. It is particularly vital if you discover that you are in the high-risk category for breast cancer.  



UAB Medical West in Birmingham, Alabama Cares About Your Breast Health

Getting regular breast examinations can help detect breast cancer early and increase the chances of a positive treatment outcome. To find out when you should start having mammograms, your risk factors, and the recommended frequency of your mammograms,  contact UAB Medical West. Being proactive about your breast health can potentially save your life. We are serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance.