Munson Health

Back to Document

by Randall B

(Breast X-ray; Mammogram; X-ray of Breast Tissue)



This exam uses low-dose x-rays to make a picture of breast tissue. The picture is called a mammogram.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women aged 50 years and older get a mammography every two years. Other organizations recommend screening every year starting at age 40. Women who are at high risk for breast cancer may need to have mammograms starting at an earlier age and more often. Most organizations in the United States and Canada recommend regular screening. There are some differences of opinion among these groups, such as when to start and how often to have the screenings. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

Reasons for Test

  • As a screening test—in women without symptoms
  • As a diagnostic test—to help make a diagnosis in women with symptoms like a lump or change in breast shape
  • To help determine size and location of a lump before a biopsy or surgery
Mammogram Showing the Growth of a Breast Mass
nucleus fact sheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

There are no special steps to prepare for this exam.
There is no proven method to decrease discomfort, but you can try:
NOTE: Tell the technician if you:
  • Are pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have breast implants —Ask if the facility uses special techniques to accommodate implants.
On the day of your exam:
  • Do not apply deodorant, talcum powder, lotion, or perfume near your breasts or under your arms.
  • Wear comfortable clothing so you can easily remove your shirt.
  • Remove jewelry.
  • Bring copies of previous mammograms and reports with you. If you have them done in the same facility each time, they will have results from prior years. The doctor can compare the old images to the new ones.
  • Describe any breast problems to the technician before the exam.

Description of Test

You will stand in front of a special x-ray machine. It has a platform to place your breast on. The technician will adjust the height of the platform. One breast will be lifted and placed between special plates that hold film. The plate is brought close to the platform and compresses the breast. This allows for a clearer image. The exam will cause some discomfort. Tell the technician if you feel any pain.
At least two pictures of each breast are taken. For one picture, you face toward the platform and the image is taken looking down at the breast. For a second common image, you stand beside the machine for a side view. Extra images may be needed if you have implants. Your doctor may also need more images if this test is being used to help make a diagnosis.

After Test

You will wait in the facility until the x-rays are developed. More images may be needed. You can go home after the exam.

How Long Will It Take?

30-45 minutes

Will It Hurt?

You may feel some discomfort and pain.


American Cancer Society

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists



Breast Cancer Society of Canada

Radiology for Patients



Mammograms. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: . Accessed October 23, 2012.

Mammography (breast imaging). Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: . Accessed May 7, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2013.

Mammography for breast cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated July 2, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2013.

8/12/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice bulletin no.122: Breast cancer screening. Obstet Gynecol . 2011;118(2 Pt 1):372-382.


Revision Information